July 18, 2014

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Married”


MARRIED:  Thursday 10PM on FX – If Nothing Else Is On…

Acrid indie comedy is FX’s brand, with shows like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The League, Legit and (although it transcends such categories) Louie.  The network has introduced a new pair for the summer, the first of which is Andrew Gurland’s MARRIED.  It’s on-brand, but very much at the low end.

The married couple of the title are Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer), who have 3 daughters and are, for the most part, heartily sick of each other, but are bound by the kids and their own inertia from doing anything about it.  The pilot, written and directed by Gurland (whose most prominent credit until now was as writer of The Last Exorcism), delineates the marriage almost entirely in terms of its lack of sex.  Lina won’t have anything to do with Russ, and when he tries masturbating in bed, she sends him to the couch (that’s the show’s opening sequence), then tells him that if he’s so desperate for a release, he can go find some other woman for satisfaction.  (But–surprise!–she doesn’t really mean it.)

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Married is that although the title implies an equal look at both sides of the couple at issue, the pilot is told entirely from Russ’s point of view, largely wasting the wonderful Judy Greer in one of her rare starring roles; she can’t help coming off as a shrill, asexual scold.  For a while, it seems like the show might improve when it leaves Lina behind, because Russ’s friends are played by such strong performers as Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman and John Hodgman.  (Lena doesn’t get to have any friends.)  Their scenes together are the best in the pilot, even if they’re also the most routinely sit-commy.  (Russ makes the friend played by Hodgman swear, swear that he won’t tell his wife about the money Russ has borrowed, because she’ll immediately tell Lina.  Want to guess what happens next?)  But before long, Gurland’s plotting kicks in, and things get much worse, as Russ lurches into almost-sex with a younger Latina woman he goes to see in order to have the hair in his ears waxed.  She’s a divorcee sexpot haunted by the stillborn birth of her son Charlie, which broke up her marriage–but since this is supposed to be a comedy, she sleeps with the ultrasound of the fetus by her bed (Russ has to knock it off the bureau when he’s trying to have sex with her); later he buys her a puppy, which she insists on naming Charlie, and when Russ wants to stop hearing from her, he makes up a story that the dog named after her dead child has been killed in an accident.

This isn’t “dark,” really, because Gurland has no intention (or, seemingly, ability) to grapple with the very difficult emotions that might feed such ugliness–it’s just glib meanness, a series creator demeaning his characters so they don’t have to be taken seriously.  In its own way, Gurland’s work is as fake as any multi-camera, laugh-track-laden half-hour on CBS.

Faxon and Greer play off each other well (in another life, Greer gave a standout performance in The Descendants, whose Oscar-winning screenplay was co-written by Faxon), but he ambles through the pilot as a mere vehicle for sexual frustration, and Greer, as noted, is little more than his tormentor.  The supporting cast is much brighter, but only on screen for bits and pieces.  Gurland’s direction is heavy on mumblecore production values, emphasizing grungy digital visuals and an ever-shaky camera.

Married has the feel of a show that pitched well in the network’s creative room, then sounded even more promising as talented cast members fell in, all of it disguising that it was hollow from the start.  Perhaps over time the series will deepen to deserve its actors.


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."