Midseason, you guys! Where networks trot out their new shows and quietly dispose of underperforming ones like a veterinarian disappearing injured pets in the dead of night. The strange wisdom of shelving burgeoning hit Parks and Recreation to make way for Outsourced last fall sent indignant shockwaves throughout the nerd community, TV division. What was even stranger was the news that when Parks and Rec returned, it would be as part of a three-hour block of shows on Thursday night, alongside the villainous show that displaced it (Outsourced), Community, those shows featuring the stars of the movie Date Night, and finally a new one called Perfect Couples. I may be a little biased here, seeing as how my darling wife, Olivia Munn, is one of the lead actresses on the program, but Perfect Couples is off to a promising start!
The show hits viewers over the head with its premise right from the cold open, when we’re introduced to three separate couples going through the same exact situation in three separate places at the same exact time. It’s like they always say: “Everything always happens in concurrent sets of three.” What’s happening here is that the female half of each couple is taking up practically all the available room on the bed, leaving the males no choice but to wake them up somehow. What a relatable dilemma! Why are women always hogging the bed and leaving the toilet seats up? Remind me to ask Olivia Munn when she wakes up (she’s resting on over 85% of the mattress-space as I very softly type this from a chair in the corner).
Speaking of Mrs. Munn, the way her partner on the show chooses to wake her up is by gently reciting some garbled self-help jargon about how what she’s doing hurts his feelings. From this we are to infer, I believe, that this couple is new-agey and spiritual and weird. Done! The next guy chooses to rouse his girlfriend (played by Charlie Day’s love interest on It’s Always Sunny) by straight-up yelling at her in a psychopathic rage. From this display, it’s clear that this is the crazypants couple. Finally, the third guy sort of nestles into the little bit of free area left on the bed and reverse-spoons his lady before signaling the dog to make some noise… like a total wuss. These, folks, are our perfect couples.
If all this sounds a bit contrived, it is. Then again, this is only the first two minutes, and it does very quickly give you an idea of what the show is about. As a first episode, “Pilot” is exactly like The Wire in that we’re dropped into the world of a bunch of strangers and we sort of have to figure out on our own what their names are and how they’re all connected. (Olivia Munn, with whom I’m enjoined in holy matrimony) is the Felicia “Snoop” Pearson of Perfect Couples in this totally fitting comparison. Here’s the rundown: The most highly functioning couple is Julia and Dave; the volatile, fighting couple is Amy and Vance, Vance being Dave’s good friend; and the creepy, uber-spiritual couple is Rex and Leigh, Rex being Julia’s brother. Also, Amy slept with Dave at some point in the past.
That last detail is given out way too casually during the funniest scene in the episode, the Game Night everyone attends. To be perfectly honest, the rest of the show went by in kind of a whirlwind, and I cannot say with anything like 100% confidence exactly what happened. One of the couples had an anniversary that didn’t go as planned? The ridiculously volatile couple ends the episode engaged? However, the Game Night scene in the middle was snappy and fun. Although Perfect Couples is very much a traditional sitcom, it is a single-camera sitcom, giving the creators room to play around a little by using brief flashbacks and reveals in the mode of 30 Rock or Arrested Development. The Game Night scene made use of these techniques to great effect. Also, the dialogue actually had some spark and the erratic, sitcom-y behavior of the characters felt right for some reason, since game night seemed destined not to work out well. If anything, the pilot episode did its job just by introducing us to the characters and their quirks, and giving us at least one scene funny enough to make us consider tuning in again.
The next step would be making us care about any of these characters, and giving them some sort of goal to work toward.