If you can’t beat “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” you combine them, right?
That’s what seems like the force behind “Undateable,” an amusing but half-hour that gives Chris D’Elia the starring role he deserves.
A co-star on “Whitney,” he plays the confident serial dater who offers to help his roommate (played by newcomer Brent Morin) through the minefield of women.
Morin’s Justin Kearney, a bar owner, however, isn’t alone in his timidity. His band of friends (and barflies) is like the “Big Bang” crowd – equally clueless. They talk a good game but hang on to D’Elia’s oh-so-wise words. At the bar (see the “Cheers” tie-in?), they try to learn everything they can about making that first move – even the one gay guy.
While the first two episodes take some time to embrace (“Undateable” premieres May 29 on NBC), it heats up in episodes three and four and has the ability to settle in throughout the summer.
Morin is the series’ secret weapon. He sings like a member of the “Pitch Perfect” cast, cowers like a younger, more talented Jon Cryer and listens like a very good talk show host. In short, he surprises even though all around him seems familiar.
D’Elia, meanwhile, is as slick as always, tossing off catchphrases (“Baby bird” could become a rallying cry) and raised eyebrows like a polished pitchman. Together, the two make a fine “Odd Couple.”
The gang of three (Ron Funches, Rick Glassman and David Fynn), however, hasn’t really found a groove that justifies its attendance. The friends are a Greek chorus, commenting on the action that shifts between the bar and the roommates’ home. The fun comes when Morin freely embraces his inner metrosexual. D’Elia gets plenty of reactionary time and doesn’t waste it.
While Bianca Kajlich (as D’Elia’s older, divorced sister) could be a strong player in the show, she’s as disposable as the women who wait tables. That’s something producers Bill Lawrence and Adam Sztykiel need to address. Kajlich is a great foil for D’Elia, Lucy to his Linus.
With so many positives, “Undateable” has to figure out how to get over the repetitious nature of its premise. Sure, “Two and a Half Men” has lasted on just that format but this doesn’t have the definition that does.
Like Justin, it’s an unformed entity – full of promise but still in a raw state. It’s watchable but it’s not unforgettable and, oddly, it could be.