August 14, 2014

THE SKED Fall Pilot Report: NBC’s “Marry Me”


MARRY ME:  Tuesday 9PM on NBC starting October 14 – If Nothing Else Is On…

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PLAYERS:  Series creator David Caspe, of the late and lamented Happy Endings.  Stars Casey Wilson and Ken Marino, but especially Wilson, because while starring in this comedy about an engaged couple, she’s engaged in real life to Caspe.  Pilot director Seth Gordon.  Non-writing Executive Producer Jamie Tarses.  Sony Television.

PREMISE:  Annie (Wilson) and Jake (Marino) are a longtime couple who’ve finally gotten engaged.  They’re surrounded by the usual wacky ensemble, including Jake’s recently divorced buddy Gil (John Gemberling), Annie’s friend Dennah (Sarah Wright), Jake’s barely-approving mother (JoBeth Williams) and Annie’s gay dads (Tim Meadows and Dan Bucatinsky).

PILOT:  The important thing for Happy Endings fans to remember, as they watch the pilot for Marry Me, is Happy didn’t start off particularly well either.  It was too fixated on its gimmicky premise (girl deserts boy at altar, but they’re both still part of the same group of friends) and eccentricities (roller skates came into play).  It was only over time that Caspe developed the full ensemble and found the rapid-fire, madcap comic style of the writing.

One can only hope the same thing happens with Marry Me, because its pilot is less than promising.  It begins with a carefully orchestrated set-piece sequence that wasn’t worth the trouble it undoubtedly took to pull off:  Annie and Jake return from a vacation where she was sure he was going to propose, and in high dudgeon, she launches into a rant against everyone in his life, starting with his friends and not excluding his mother.  What she doesn’t know is that Jake had planned a surprise proposal party for their return, and all of those people are hidden in their apartment, where she’s practically stepping over them as she stomps around.  The choreography is impressive, but the overall effect is contrived and over the top.  That feeling only gets worse when Annie marches into Jake’s office to apologize and deliver her own proposal, having no thought for the fact that their vacation had been a secret from his boss.  Happy Endings achieved a level of surrealness where the characters could get away with doing nonsensical things, but for now, at least, Marry Me seems to be intending something more grounded, which may not be Caspe’s strength.

The same goes for Wilson.  She’s very much a force of nature comic actress, and she was hilarious as part of an ensemble in Happy Endings.  As a leading lady, she can feel a bit like the SNL sketch performer she once was.  Marino, for his part, is merely second banana to Wilson, and the show needs him to be more than her foil.  The supporting cast jokes are at the level where it’s a recurring gag that Annie’s black gay father keeps saying to her white gay father that they can’t really be sure whose sperm impregnated their donor.

A key question for Marry Me will be what it wants its tone to be.  The opening half-hour almost recalls FX’s You’re the Worst in portraying its romantic leads as self-obsessed, but that show has an edge of wit, because the characters know full well they’re obnoxious, and greatly enjoy that about themselves.  We’re supposed to like the leads on Marry Me, and yet they’re more overwhelming than charming.

PROSPECTS:  NBC thinks highly enough of Marry Me that it’s their only new fall comedy rescued from the morass of the network’s Thursday night.  It will play on Tuesdays alongside the mildly successful About A Boy, and with the only comedy competition FOX’s perishing New Girl.  That, and a lead-in from The Voice, should guarantee it a healthy start.  But as Go On can testify, the Voice effect doesn’t last forever.  Marry Me will have some time at the start of its season to put itself together, or else resign itself to TV spinsterhood.


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."