July 4, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Undateable”


NBC was so eager to get UNDATEABLE off its schedule that the network unceremoniously threw 4 episodes onto tonight’s line-up, 1 rerun and 3 new half-hours culminating in the season finale.  That treatment was a bit unfair, because although Adam Sztykiel’s series is easy to damn with faint praise, it managed the summer show task of being not-terrible (even compared to some regular season sitcoms) in a moderately likable way.

Undateable was hurt by the extremely unpromising nature of its premise, which had ladies’ man Danny (Chris D’Elia) becoming the roommate of dorky Detroit bar-owner Justin (Brent Morin)–he sings Broadway tunes!  he wears khakis!–and thus becoming pal and unofficial den mother to not only Justin but his  equally lonely-guy friends, oversized stoner Shelly (Ron Funches), recently-out gay English bartender Brett (David Flynn), and generally obnoxious Burski (Rick Glassman), with Danny’s divorced sister Leslie (Bianca Kajlich) inexplicably around all the time in the way that supporting sitcom characters are.  The very pat idea was that each week, Justin and/or the others would learn a lesson about the handling of women, while superficial Danny would himself absorb some worthy knowledge about true friendship and emotional sensitivity.  It was a broad, old-fashioned multi-camera comedy set almost entirely on the main sets of Justin’s bar or the living room of the house he shared with Danny, the kind where every character, no matter what lesson he’d learned the week before, does exactly the same thing the next week so he can learn it all over again.

Yet Undateable hasn’t been without its charms.  It turned out to be a plus for the show that D’Elia was never really believable as a smooth-talking womanizer (he comes off as the scruffy stand-up comic he is), which made his supposed omnipotence with women more comical than it was first portrayed as being, and turned the cast into an ensemble of oddballs.  Soon enough Justin had scored a real romance with the bar’s beauteous waitress Nicki (Briga Heelan, although other commitments forced her out of the series and thus “out of town” midway through the season), while Danny was forced to deal with the non-stop withering sarcasm of Sabrina (unofficial regular Eva Amurri Martino), whom he’d bedded but then cheated on, and whom Justin hired to replace Nicki.  (Undateable hails from the Bill Lawrence production shop, which had a similar wrecked-premise situation with Cougar Town.)  D’Elia and Morin have fine odd-couple chemistry, and Funches and Flynn were very good at mining variations on their limited characters, although the show never really figured out what to do with Burski, apart from the occasional stab at suggesting a romance between him and Leslie (another character who didn’t really come to life).  Undateable wasn’t often laugh-out-loud funny, but it was a comfortable place to spend two half-hours per week (NBC burned off a pair of episodes every Thursday), and that’s half the battle for a sitcom.

The trio of final episodes provided a fair representation of the series, good and bad.  The first half-hour, written by Michael Hobert and directed by Shelley Jensen, was silliness about the conflict Danny and Justin had with each other when a pot dealer moved next door and shined his ultra-bright security lights into the house, with Danny favoring open confrontation, Justin wanting to negotiate a peace, and the two of them triumphing once they worked together.  It was marked by a martial arts non-fight between Danny and the neighbor that was much less funny than the show thought it was.  The second episode, written by Heather Flanders and directed by David Trainer, had Danny and the guys banding together to pay off Justin’s debts on the bar, but then Danny acting like a full partner in the business, and it was a more effective effort, as Justin challenged Danny to actually run the bar and Danny successfully did so for a night, by turning the place into a gay bar for the evening–a gag handled without the obvious campy jokes.  The finale, written by Laura Moran and Joel Church-Cooper, and directed by Eric Dean Seaton, rang some decent reversals on the original premise, as the good-looking woman Danny had his eye on went for Justin (but ended up in bed with Burski), as the group had to help Justin deal with Nicki breaking up with him long-distance.

Undateable had a very respectable start in the ratings at 1.3, but then it had to air 2 consecutive weeks opposite the NBA Finals, and it never bounced back from that hit, falling to a sub-1 level that doesn’t bode well for its future.  As with Cougar Town, it could find a more welcoming home on cable, where its modest virtues would face less competition.  NBC has done worse in summer, though–in fact, in comedy, it’s been doing worse for quite a while.

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."