Married (FX) Series Premiere 2014 Review “Pilot”

Married (FX) Series Premiere Pilot (5)

The premiere of Married was like a short Judd Apatow film with none of the laughs. For a comedy, even a dark comedy, is was shockingly unfunny. The couple at the core of this story, Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer), have been married long enough to have three children, but their relationship has settled into a sexless partnership where Russ (the stereotypical manchild) spends his days moaning about the lack of sex and Lina gets saddled with the no nonsense role of the tired, overworked wife. She prefers fantasies of vampires and werewolves to her husband who, to paraphrase Lina, gets her pregnant every time he looks at her. If the setup sounds dispiriting, it is, but despite Married‘s flaws, it has three things working in its favor: Faxon, Greer and Jenny Slate as Russ’ friend Jess who is equally disenchanted with her marriage.

Strong actors can make even the most cringeworthy moments bearable. While Married does not bring the laughs in its premiere, it does bring a healthy dose of reality. Marriages often do become less centere on sex and romance as they progress (and in many cases fall apart), at least statistically speaking. I did not giggle once while watching the pilot, but also never felt compelled to change the channel because the actors sold the story even when the story was not ideal. For instance, Russ’ constant begging for sex combined with his inability to do anything right (the guy kills his daughter’s fish within the first 10 minutes) would make him insufferable in lesser hands. Luckily for Russ, Faxon is immensely likeable and his low key performance makes siting through scenes of the character awkwardly attempting to seduce Lina by pretending to be Dracula less pathetic.

The premiere was structured entirely around Russ’ quest for sex which Lina aided by giving him permission to take a mistress. This plan goes awry quickly when Russ picks up the woman who waxes his ears– and who has not gotten over miscarrying her son. Russ stumbles into his almost affair by buying the woman a dog– which she names Charlie after her dead son. Russ never gets around to having his extramarital sex and ends up bringing the dog home to his kids, telling his would be mistress little Charlie ran in front of a truck. Will she be forever traumatized? Yes.

My primary problem with the premiere was the misuse of Greer, who is entirely too funny to be saddled with such a depressing character. The episode is told entirely from Russ’ point of view, and as such we have no idea who Lina is beyond being the woman no longer interested in having sex. She’s tired, grouchy and just as bored as Russ. Basically, Married‘s title could be changed to “Miserable” without anyone noticing. For those of us who are unmarried, the series paints a stinging indictment of the institution. Here marriage means never being happy again.

The one glimmer of hope in an otherwise downer of a series was Slate’s Jess. Russ routinely gets together with Jess and his other friend played by John Hodgman to commiserate about their spouses. Jess’ spouse just happens to be an elderly man whose pills she gets stuck organizing. Slate’s sharp-tongued commentary is a bright spot in an otherwise drab opener.

I do not think Married is a bad show, in fact, I can see quite a few people enjoying the pitch black humor that comes with the desperation of a marriage gone dull, but I do feel it needs to give its strong cast better material if it hopes to gain something larger than a niche audience.

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