HOWARD MEGDAL: Do yourself a favor and move beyond the tired cliches of married life found in the opening sequence of Perfect Couples, NBC’s new sitcom, which aired last week. The remainder of the pilot runs at a fast pace, particularly for a pilot, and provides hope that a strong addition to the prime time lineup has arrived.
Seriously, it feels like the opening, with the subtitle “Stepping in it”, was penned by different writers than the remainder of the show. Ostensibly to introduce the characters, we learn that married women don’t like it when: husbands comment negatively on their backsides, the attractiveness of their friends, and wrinkles. The reverse is true when wives comment about: diet, musical taste and sexual prowess. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
But then, the show proper begins, and the interactions between the three male friends, the three female friends, and most importantly, the three couples have nuance and wit. A cast of mostly unknowns (with The Daily Show’s Olivia Munn, arguably the most-unknown TDS cast member, the only person I recognized) perform the above-average lines in a well-delivered, understated fashion.
Without spoiling the plot lines, the silliness is unsparing, and the first half hour flew by. By working some of the necessary exposition into the plot itself, the show creaked less under the weight of telling viewers who the hell those people are on-screen than most pilots. I’ll be watching this again.
ZOË RICE: Based on NBC’s promos for this new sitcom, I was expecting something along the lines of Bravo’s short-lived, hilarious Significant Others. Both shows involve couples in counseling, and both feature established marrieds as well as newlyweds (or nearly so). However in execution, Perfect Couples has so far turned out to be more like the doomed American Coupling to the irreverently fun British Coupling–unfortunately a lesser version.
Like Howard I enjoyed seeing Olivia Munn, and her couple turned out to be the only one I could imagine staying tuned in for. She and her husband’s relationship felt quirky and fresh, steering clear of some of the overly glib dialogue and relationship cliches that weighed down the other two pairs. Unlike Howard, I didn’t think the cliches ended after the first few moments. And ultimately, it was the cliched problems–”My wife de-glams!” “My boyfriend is scared of commitment!”–that I thought dragged the show down a few notches from “clever” and instead positioned it too firmly in what we already understand as “sitcom.”
There are glimmers of hope. Vance has charm, and I’m guessing his couple will get the best lines, but the two non-Olivia-Munn female characters haven’t even begun to hit their strides. Right now these couples and their problems feel forced to me. But perhaps with time, and as the writers and actors work together to find the proper rhythm, Perfect Couples can find that happy marriage of cleverness and irreverence. I doubt I’ll be watching to find out.
I may, however, see if I can dredge up those mere twelve episodes of Significant Others online.