You know things aren’t going to go well in the Traffic Light pilot within the first minute or so, when we see lawyer Mike cowering his car to watch Iron Man. Desperate for a moment alone, he uses three-way calling (like you do) to chat with his dos amigos Single British Ethan and Serious Relationship Adam. Suddenly his gorgeous wife Lisa rips open the car door and plops their adorable toddler in his lap. He literally screams, “Oh my god, Lisa’s coming,” like she’s a raptor bounding toward the car. And so ends a pretty good Coors Light commercial. Oh wait, this is a 30-minute TV show? Oh god in heaven.
Traffic Light revolves around former college baseball teammates Adam (Nelson Franklin), Ethan (Kris Marshall) and Mike (David Denman), who reminisce about their wacky absent fourth Ben (stand-up Nick Thune) as they navigate the tricky terrain of adult relationships. Or, to be more specific, Adam, Ben and Mike do battle with the masculinity vampires who are their wives and girlfriends as they attempt to drain all joy and freedom from their guys’ lives.
The pilot largely focuses on how Mike’s marriage to Lisa (Liza Lapira) crushes his balls like a 5,000-lb vise, a plot line that has already been explored in a wide variety of sitcoms, movies and McDonalds commercials. Lisa asks him to attend a work function and Mike reacts like she sprayed hot period blood into his eyes. After catching her hubbie in a lie, Lisa sentences him with two weeks of bathtime for their dumb crappy baby and forces him to finally throwing away that OLD COLLEGE t-shirt he wears all the time (you know the one, from that college?) while Mike silently pouts. You can almost smell the resentment wafting from the TV screen.
Look, I’ve never been married. Maybe it is, in fact, a desolate pit of despair as many shows have claimed before. But do we have to have another program that says the exact same thing? The fact that TL is not particularly hilarious could be attributed to the natural rockiness of a first season, if it wasn’t so clearly gumming the same marrowless bone that innumerable relationship comedies before it have gnawed down to a nubbin. There’s no meat left on that thing. Can’t we try something new?
I don’t mean to isolate Mike, given that all the characters are equally dopey. There’s also Adam, who’s new live-in girlfriend Callie (Aya Cash) likes to hang out with him, thus forcing him to spin elaborate lies in order to escape. These people have literally been living together for 48 hours and things start to go all Little Children on them. Callie instead suggests she join the men for a drink. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! For the love of god, don’t let a woman come to the bar because…uh, they are intolerable to be around? Their presence angers the sea gods and causes shipwrecks?
In the only plot line not focused entirely on the ladies, Adam is forced by his boss to plan the most bomb-ass bar mitzvah of all time, complete with professional wrestlers and 200 middle-schoolers screaming for pain. Unfortunately, he finds out too late that the kid’s favorite wrestler Sonic Clown can’t make it…because his fiancé wouldn’t give him the permission to go! SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE? Of course Mike winds up getting beaten to a pulp in a clown suit, which seems like the physically manifestation of his emotional degradation. It is also a set up for Lisa to be mad at him again! Doh!
Ah, but it isn’t just the men that can’t handle adult relationship concepts like “having friends” and “talking to each other.” Callie too reveals that she had lied to her partner get some free time, inventing an imaginary friend with a pretend dog to get out of the house. Guess we learned that it’s really men AND women who can’t seem to yadda yadda yadda no one has ever actually done this in real life, ever.
In the pilot’s finale, we see the three friends dedicating a baseball field in the memory of Chumbawumba-loving Ben. Adam explains that their deceased pal looked at life like a traffic light, because sure. Green means you can have sex with whomever you like and hang out with your adorable dog Carl. Haha, that Carl! Yellow means you spend time with your girlfriend lining all the drawers in the house with drawer liners, but you don’t yet want to drug yourself into a stupor to escape the iron maiden of domesticity. Red means that you can finally stop, take a look around, and realize you ended up exactly where you want to be. Then you can go ahead and slip behind the wheel of your car, start the engine and close the garage door. That’s when you’ll know that you’ve truly arrived. PLAAAAAAY BALL!