March 17, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Undateable”



NBC made its position on the current state of broadcast network comedy fairly clear when it essentially chose UNDATEABLE over The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt this midseason.  Both shows were ordered and had produced their episodes, but the network shuffled the Tina Fey-produced Kimmy to Netflix (which appears to have worked out beautifully for all concerned), while giving its marquee post-The Voice slot to last summer’s moderate success.  The message is clear:  quirkiness and original personal vision are out, and safe, broad-based, familiar sitcom tropes are the key to hitting the air.

None of this is to say that Undateable is a terrible half-hour of entertainment.  It’s not.  It’s a mildly likeable, sometimes funny, completely unmemorable cross between the friendly bar setting of Cheers, the mismatched buddies premise of The Odd Couple and the band of social misfits comedy of The Big Bang Theory.  The central situation has insensitive lothario Danny (Chris D’Elia), becoming the roommate and ultimately pal of nerdy yet gentlemanly bar owner Justin (Brent Morin).  The bar itself features gay British bartender Brett (David Fynn), large black Shelly (Ron Funches), and moderately obnoxious Burski (Rick Glassman), and soon enough Danny’s sister Leslie (Bianca Kajlich) is hanging out there too.  Danny gives all the men the benefit of his love life advice, and occasionally a lesson will sink in, but mostly they remain the same, while teaching Danny about being a less superficial, more caring human being.

Tonight’s season premiere, written by series creator Adam Sztykiel and directed by Phill Lewis, took care of some business by dispatching the girlfriend Justin had been seeing last season, and introducing a naive new waitress (Bridgit Mendler, a former Disney Channel star and apparent social-media magnet).  Mostly, though, it was completely in keeping with the show’s general tenor.  Justin, guided by Danny, finally achieved a one night stand with a bar customer–but then ruined it by being too nice a guy to let her leave in the morning, instead making her think they were dating, much to Danny’s disgust.  A “courtroom” sequence asked whether Justin was actually more hurtful than Danny because he’d led the woman on, and a valuable lesson was learned when the woman herself testified that she wished Justin had just told her the truth.

Undateable is best when it’s barely trying to tell a story, instead letting the regular cast riff on one thing or another.  Tonight’s B story was a negligible anecdote about Leslie getting the help of Shelly and Burski in retrieving a poster of her butt from the wall of a health club, and it got some laughs from Shelly’s insistence on staying in character as a Japanese businessman.  D’Elia also gets fair mileage from Danny’s good-humored inability to believe just how socially inept his new friends are.  The cast has fine chemistry, and sometimes the series gets some genuine ensemble spirit going.

On the whole, though, Undateable evaporates as you watch it.  It’s better than the rest of the comedies NBC has put on its air this season (with the obvious exception of the late, great Parks & Recreation), but that just underscores how little NBC encourages genuine comic inspiration these days.  It’s become a believer in fast food comedy.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."