Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life begins with a conspicuously trite sitcom premise. Its titular Wonder Bread-white male lead (played by Jack Cutmore-Scott) speaks directly into the camera about how his life post-college has not exactly been what he envisioned.
His mid-twenties, thus far, have been a mess of mistakes and misadventures – he has yet to land on his feet and seems to stumble into trouble more than stay out of it. He also lives in a comfortable flat in a Los Angeles apartment building with two roommates: the boisterous Barry (James Earl) and the meek computer-savvy Neal (Charlie Saxton). He frequently relies on his forty-year old brother, Josh (Justin Bartha), to bail him out of sticky situations. And he’s potentially falling in love with Kelly (Meaghan Rath), the woman living across the hall, because of course he is.
The show rarely moves beyond that recognizable, guys-being-dudes brand of humor, and the tropes it employs tend to grind gears more than elicit laughs. Characterization is often cheap and bland, especially in the show’s premiere. When Kelly tells Cooper about her cruddy boyfriend, he calls her “a little bit complicated,” and that’s most of the intrigue afforded her character for the duration of the episode.
Later, Cooper takes a dead-end job peddling an energy drink called Tiger Thrust – sounds even worse than 5-Hour Energy – and she tells him, “You have more potential than anyone I’ve ever met.” This moment is expected to ignite the spark that will lead to their inevitable sexual tension.
At a particularly odd moment in this same first episode, the apparently still-virginal Neal tries to hit on women at the flat’s housewarming party. A woman several inches taller than Neal approaches and makes a move on him. He looks up at her, his face a mix of frightened and thrilled, and says, “Be gentle.” The substantial physical difference between them – she’s built like a power lifter, he looks like he hasn’t touched a dumbbell in some time – gets overtly played for laughs, but it’s simply unfunny. Masculinity, as that rather astute hashtag states and this poor joke in creator Jay Lacopo’s script proves, is so fragile.
In a later episode, Kelly shuts down an advance from her ex by claiming that Cooper is her boyfriend. And Josh frequently harps on his wife Leslie’s (Liza Lapira) killjoy demeanor. She’s illustrated as an awkward mother of two and her behavior leads the married couple into cringe-worthy predicaments. This approach to comedy isn’t exactly surprising, and nothing here is profoundly egregious, it’s just that the show wears its maleness rather proudly on its sleeve without doing much to elicit particular interest in its narrative or sense of humor.