Saturday, July 19, 2014

Being MARRIED Is Sort of Amusing

Article originally written for Seat42F.

MARIED is a new comedy airing on FX about a couple who have lost the spark in their union and are looking for ways to salvage their relationship. Every day is a struggle, with kids demanding attention and sex pretty much a thing of the past. It’s a bittersweet look at a particularly difficult stage of married life, with emphasis on the bad side, but with an underlying heart that will surely carry the characters through.

Who doesn’t like Nat Faxon (Ben and Kate) and Judy Greer (Arrest Development, Archer)? They are two gifted comedic actors who have been funny in everything they’ve been in, in my opinion. Going in, the fact that the two of them are the leads is a major plus for MARRIED.

The show itself is not quite as funny as I expected it to be, though, which is why I like the series paired with it, You’re the Worst, a little more. There are funny jokes in MARRIED, to be sure, but it’s a toned-down funny, sometimes at the expense of the pathetic players. There is a lot of misery for these characters, people whose life has not gone the way they’ve expected it to. Russ (Faxon) is feeling very unfulfilled because his wife won’t touch him any more, despite his attempts to get her to do so. Lina (Greer) wants to be a good spouse, but she’s too worn out from taking care of their three young girls (How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)’s Rachel Eggleston, Cloud Atlas’ Raevan Lee Hanan, and newcomer Skylar Gray) and doesn’t have the energy to help Russ, too. This darkness is just not a laughing matter.

Yet, there’s also a sweetness to the program. The fact that Lina wants to help Russ proves that there is affection between them, even if she seems to have forgotten how to show it or just isn’t capable of doing so right now. Russ is earnest in his attempts to get Lina interested again, trying to make her happy, too, not just a horny guy obsessed with getting off. It’s hard to blame either one when they are both trying, or what amounts to trying in their current state, and once their kids get older, they should be able to reconnect if they can just hang on to each other for now.

The premise of the first episode is that Lina gives Russ permission to find someone else to help meet his physical needs. This makes sense, logically, but of course emotions are involved, and those are anything but logical. Without going into detail, the story unfolds in a way other than I expected. As regrettable as it is to see Russ even considering going down this road, Greer and Faxon are so good in their parts, effectively communicating the mixed feelings and nuance, that it actually works rather well.

When things get too much for Russ, he heads to the bar to meet his friends Jess (Jenny Slate, Parks and Recreation), who is with a considerably older gentleman, and AJ (Brett Gelman, Go On), who is newly single again. They provide an outlet and advice, allowing him to verbalize much of what he’s thinking. While it may not be completely realistic for Russ to have the time and money to hang out with them so often, it allows the story to keep moving effectively.

Sadly, Lina doesn’t have a similar outlet, stuck at home with the kids while Russ is out getting plot. I hope this is a fluke of the pilot and future installments allow more balance in the couple. The only time I really didn’t like Russ are the scenes in which it’s obvious that he is running around town and Lina is buried in housework and childcare. They should switch off, allowing Lina to have her own stories while Russ takes his time with the girls. This would not only provide gender equality, but also make sure Greer gets her due, as she would be wasted otherwise.

Otherwise, though, MARRIED makes a decent show, not FX’s best, but still worth watching. MARRIED premieres Thursday, July 17th at 10 p.m. ET.

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