May 30, 2014

THE SKED Pilot (+1) Review: “Undateable”


UNDATEABLE:  Thursday 9PM on NBC – Change the Channel

UNDATEABLE, whose episodes NBC is burning off two at a time on summer Thursday nights, may not be quite bad enough to earn the obvious “unwatchable” or “unbearable” labels its title seems to demand–not at the tail end of a season in which NBC gave us Sean Saves the World, Welcome To the Family and The Michael J. Fox Show–but it’s still pretty grim.  The series, created by Adam Sztykiel (who wrote both the pilot and the 2d episode aired on opening night) is nothing but contrived premise.  Danny (Chris D’Elia, Whitney Cummings’ leading man on Whitney, how soon they forget) is a ladies’ man who’s getting a bit long in the tooth for his litany of superficial one night stands; his new roommate is nice guy bar-owner Justin (Brent Morin), who along with his three friends have never had any stands at all.  The friends are fairly reduced to their types:  black and overweight Shelly (Ron Funches), English and gay Brett (Justin Fynn), and nerdy/loud-mouthed Burski (Rick Glassman).  Danny takes them all under his wing, as they teach him how to be a better human being and more in touch with his emotions.  A hint of estrogen is provided by Leslie (Bianca Kajlich), Danny’s sister, whose love life is also a mess.  (In the first 2 episodes, Briga Heelan is also on hand as Nicki, Justin’s waitress and the subject of his crush, but she’s not a series regular, so it’s not clear how much she’ll be around.)

The pilot serves to introduce all of the above, and its level of humor can be summed up with a couple of its jokes.  First, there’s the running gag about people thinking that Justin’s bar Black Eyes is called “Black Guys” (because having it happen just once would have wasted such a brilliant piece of wit), and then there’s the supposedly hilarious development that when Justin finally spends the night with a woman, it’s Danny’s sister Leslie–topped by the revelation that Justin is so sweet and asexual that the two of them never actually did anything when they spent the night in bed together.  The second episode had Danny, impatient with Justin’s inability to make a move on Nicki, send a text to her on Justin’s phone, which resulted in Justin desperately doing and saying anything to get out of what would have been their date to go see a movie (but ending up going along with her anyway).  In each half-hour, Danny acts with complete arrogance and lack of regard for the feelings of others, only to learn a valuable lesson in the final act about needing to be a better friend, the way the losers are for each other.

It’s pretty much as bad as it sounds, and Scott Ellis’s direction of both episodes is routine multi-camera broadness.  What redeems it a bit is Morin’s decency as Justin, and the occasional reach for a laugh that lands, as in the second episode where Justin’s frantic effort to convince Nicki that his text was meant for a phantom friend “Nick” leads to the nonexistent friend becoming stranger and stranger in the telling (although the show isn’t smart enough to land a punchline on the bit once it’s done).  D’Elia pretty much gives the same performance he gave on Whitney, but the rest of the cast manages not to overdo the mannerisms they’ve been given.

Undateable is produced by Bill Lawrence, who used to know better with his own quirky shows like Scrubs, but who as a producer has recently been churning out the routine sitcom fodder of Ground Floor, Surviving Jack and this one.  NBC didn’t make a mistake by keeping Undateable off the air during the regular season, although some viewers desperate for new scripted network comedy during the summer may accept it for what it is when they have no other choice.


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."