ABC’s new comedy Mixology, which premieres tonight at 9:30 p.m. on ABC, is vile. It doesn’t quite endorse rape, but it certainly has no problem with rape. The characters hold women in profound ill regard. The first episode calls both its male and female romantic leads “bitch” multiple times. If every character on a show hates each other and themselves this much, how are we supposed to want to spend time with them? And how does ABC think this is a good lead-out for Modern Family?
Let’s say something nice about Mixology. It has a novel premise: The show follows ten different characters over the course of one night at the same bar. Each episode includes biographical flashbacks, sometimes to a character’s birth and childhood, sometimes to more recent events. In the pilot’s funniest moment, we flash back to one character’s unhappy childhood with a dad who didn’t much care for her: We see her younger self eating a Popsicle, her dad gestures for her to give him a taste, then promptly eats the entire popsicle and hands her back an empty stick. I chuckled! It seemed like a gag from a show like My Name Is Earl or Scrubs, shows that assumed that even their villainous characters had human dignity. Some of the cast members are appealing, and it’s easy to picture them on other, less risible sitcoms.
But instead they are here on Mixology, where our narrator and slobby asshole Bruce (Andrew Santino, who either needs a better wig or a better haircut) tells his recently dumped buddy Tom (Blake Lee) to focus his attention on women wearing high heels. “The higher the heels, the looser she feels,” he tells Tom and their other friend Cal (Craig Frank). Lovely. “Let’s find you a nice sweet drunk girl,” he adds. Of Tom’s ex, he says he “never liked her. I thought she was a whore!” He encourages Tom to watch “weird illegal porno” to help him “get over that pigfart, Laura.” If Bruce was set up as an object of ridicule on the show, that’d be one thing. But he’s the bro we’re all supposed to vaguely admire, and in later episodes root for. In the coda for the pilot, he’s scanning the bar for potential sex partners. “There’s a few girls here I can smash out,” he says. “Look at that chick over there throwing up. I’m gonna bang her out!” [End credits.] He also mentions in passing that a woman has a restraining order against him. I wish I could laugh at things like this, but I’m a woman, and I’m alive, and so instead of laughing at it, I actually have to spend my time avoiding being raped and worrying that if I ever were, the response would be “well, why’d you get so drunk?” Perhaps Bruce could “smash it out” with someone able to give consent. Ha, ha, ha.
The rest of the cast includes Glee’s Vanessa Lengies as a cocktail waitress who doesn’t mind that the co-worker she’s having sex with (Adan Canto) does not know her name; Alexis Carra (who could win a “Most Nancy Travis–like human who is not actually Nancy Travis” prize) as Jessica, a single mom waiting to meet an internet date; Adam Campbell as said date, a British guy who promptly barfs in Jessica’s purse; Maya (Ginger Gonzaga), whose dad ate her Popsicle in the flashback; and Maya’s mousey co-worker, Liv (Kate Simses).
We’re told repeatedly that Maya is a “bitch,” and in a flashback, Keyshawn Johnson appears and tells her “you are the biggest bitch I’ve ever met, and Keyshawn Johnson has seen some bitches.” She complains that men aren’t “manly” anymore, saying, “If I talked [dismissively] to Don Draper, he would smack me in the mouth. That is a man.” She tells Tom he’s a “sniveling little bitch” and that what [straight] women want is a man who will say to them “‘I’m not going jeans shopping with you! I’m a man! Respect my balls!’” On later episodes, she declares that she “hates Hawaiians,” and that hilarious tidbit of racism becomes a runner for the whole episode.
The most confusing part of the show is that the flashbacks seem to provide context and theoretical opportunities for compassion for our characters, but the present-day scenes reject whatever sympathy those might have garnered. Tom is overly doting because his father abandoned his family; Maya is nastily brusque because her father never wanted her and raised her like she was a boy. If there are good reasons for characters’ actions, why are we supposed to sneer at them? They’re dealing badly with childhood trauma. Does that really make them “bitches”? Yes, says Mixology. Mock them and hate them and then hope they smash it out with one another.
I watched three episodes of Mixology, twice each because I guess life is too long. The show was created by The Hangover’s Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, so I expected bro-centric humor (yes), maybe people getting hit in the groin (no, surprisingly!), vomit (yes), and maybe some pop references (Sex and the City, as it turns out). What I didn’t expect was the relentless hostility. Mixology is ostensibly a show about people looking for love. I hope they find it! Because they could all really, really use it.