Getting worked up about the unrealistic premise of a TV show or movie is a loser’s game. “In real life, no one can get into your dreams!” or, “In real life, moderately employed twentysomething New Yorkers couldn’t afford to live in that apartment!” are on opposite ends of the same “It’s made up! Deal with it” spectrum. And yet, sometimes, it’s hard to deal, often more so with the little things — like phony apartments — than big ones. (If a movie’s plot is about getting into someone’s dreams, verisimilitude was probably not the goal. If it’s about six friends being friends, why wasn’t verisimilitude the goal?) Along these lines, we found it hard to get over one particular aspect of CBS’s new sitcom Mad Love, a sort of After I Met Your Mother about young white professionals hanging in a bar, which premiered last night. The setup of the show is as follows: Two people meet and fall in love (Jason Biggs and Sarah Chalke). Their respective best friends (Tyler Labine and our beloved Judy Greer) meet and fall in hate that will, obviously, transform into love over the many hundreds of hours they hang out together. And this is our nitpicky complaint: People who hate each other do not spend this much time together!
Look, will the friends of people in a serious relationship have to see each other sometimes? Of course they will! Will they have to see each other more than they would like to? Maybe so! Will they have to spend every hour of their free time hanging out together? Nope, nope they will not. Will they have to spend every hour of their free time hanging out together if they find each other exceptionally distasteful? Hells no! Life events and house parties! Case closed. Alas, this is not the case on Mad Love, where week after week, Labine and Greer’s characters are destined to snark on each other while hanging out with absolutely no one else.
This is a more egregious variation on the reality flouting most TV shows do: The main characters are only friends with the other main characters, and hardly interact with anyone else. But at least in most sitcoms, this over-hanging happens between people who enjoy each others’ company. (Or, as with Gilligan and the Skipper, cannot avoid each other thanks to the cruelties of geography.) In other words, it’s too much of an otherwise realistic behavior, whereas in Mad Love, it’s too much of an unrealistic behavior.
The British sitcom Gavin & Stacey had a similar setup to Mad Love and dealt with the problem head-on. The main characters’ best friend’s hated each other, but rather than supposing they would hang out 24/7 anyway, the writers had them have one night hate sex early on in the series and get knocked up. Sure, that’s a crazy plot twist, but at least having a baby with someone is a plausible reason to have them in your life all the time. If a baby seems like too much, Mad Love may still want to investigate the hate-sex angle. Looking down the road, as soon as Greer and Labine’s characters start to begrudgingly admit they don’t despise each other, the show turns fully into a will-they-or-won’t-they series, unless the pressure has been alleviated because they’ve been shagging the whole time. Plus, on the realism scale, good hate sex is a far more plausible reason to spend too much time with someone than, “My best friend asked me to.”