Empty9:30-10 p.m., Sunday, March 2
Think "Seinfeld" with a shot of tequila or a raunchy version of "Friends" or, wait, better yet, think of it as a less raunchy version of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Now you're getting the idea of Fox's "Unhitched," a standout comedy with a lousy title.
In the opening sequence of this single-camera show, a chimp suddenly sodomizes one of the four leads while he is getting it on with his date. You'd swear this gross but hilarious scene could only come from the comically degenerate minds of Peter and Bobby Farrelly, and you'd be right. The brothers Farrelly directed the pilot and are among the executive producers. The show's creators, though, are Mike Bernier and Chris Pappas.
The victim of the enthusiastic chimp is Jack "Gator" Gately (Craig Bierko). Despite his budding and surprising social life, he still cares for his wife and can't bring himself to sign divorce papers. His best friends are divorce lawyer Kate (Rashida Jones), whose own relationship broke apart six months earlier; Tommy (Johnny Sneed), whose three divorces taught him practically nothing; and Freddy (Shaun Majumder), a hopelessly naive doctor whose wife walked out on him.
So, yeah, they're all unhitched, but in this case, so what? Even the pilot has almost nothing to do with their previous relationships. This is about their new misadventures, especially their dates, which always are doomed but, a la "Seinfeld," in funny ways you'd never imagine.
The cast, a pastiche of different personality types, comes together to form a smooth laugh machine. Jones is fetching enough to attract eyeballs, and yet it's still possible to believe she could have a bumpy love life. Bierko is a perfect everyman, and Sneed is hilariously horny. That leaves Majumder, who fares pretty well considering that his character, the clueless guy from India, is a species that threatens to overrun TV comedies.
Normally, you never know if the rest of the series can match the mix of romance and anarchy in the pilot, but there's reason to be optimistic with "Unhitched." The second episode of the series, confidently sent to critics by Fox, is just as strong, with the predicaments equally embarrassing and unpredictable in a gut-busting way.
If only Fox had a place to put this show. The 9:30 p.m. spot, at the end of the animated comedy block, spelled disaster for "Arrested Development." Ideally, it should be paired with "Back to You" or even " 'Til Death," but both of those series have been crowded off the schedule by the "American Idol" octopus. Until "Unhitched" is put alongside a compatible program, Fox might never realize its full potential.
Watson Pond Prods. and Conundrum in association with 20th Centrury Fox Television
Executive producers: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Bradley Thomas, Brad Johnson
Co-executive producers/creators/story: Mike Bernier, Chris Pappas
Producers: Kevin Barnett, Katy McCaffrey, Randy Cordray
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Teleplay: Mike Bernier, Chris Pappas, Kevin Barnett
Director of photography: Matt Leonetti
Production designer: Arlan Jay Vetter
Editors: Brent Carpenter, Andrea Folprecht, Larry Madaras
Score: John Nordstrom
Set decorator: Lisa Alkofer
Casting: Nikki Valko, Ken Miller
Jack "Gator" Gately: Craig Bierko
Kate: Rashida Jones
Dr. Freddy Sahgal: Shaun Majumder
Tommy: Johnny Sneed
Chuck: Johnny Knoxville
Annie: Lauren Bowles
Katherine: Kate Hodge
Julia: Eliza Coupe
Nikki: Erinn Bartlett