Four episodes of the first season of “Married” were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
FX’s comedies often peddle in dark and dour territory – just look at Louie, a terrific series devoted entirely to one man wallowing in the miseries and idiosyncracies of life. It’s hilarious, yes, but in a bleak way that, for its star, often crosses the line between self-deprecation and self-mutilation. The simplest way to describe FX’s new comedy hopeful, Married, is that it wants to be what Louie is to self-absorbed, perpetually single a-holes, for self-absorbed, miserably married a-holes. Its apparent message early on is that the idea of an ideal marriage is a straight-up myth – married life is a drag, simply put. Even if your name is Nat Faxon, and you’re married to Judy Greer? Unfortunately, I’m not buying it.
Though, like Married, Louie regularly finds Louis C.K. moping around and reflecting on the pains of living, there’s a key component of that show’s lamenting that Married misses. Whereas C.K. often turns Louie‘s caustic world-view on himself, admitting the essential uselessness of his moaning and groaning, Married lacks the same ability for self-reflection. Instead, in the show’s first four episodes, protagonists Lina (Greer) and Russ Bowman (Faxon) mostly stagger through the motions, complaining about their declining sex life, their needy kids, their mounting debts, their unavoidable mellowing-out, and more. Never do they step back to look at themselves, and never do they take the opportunity to put their finger on exactly what’s making them miserable. Lina and Russ just accept their boredom and keep turning the handle.
Is that a good set-up for a comedy? Not in my opinion. There have been a handful of good shows about the suffocating ennui of married life, but those all had something of value to say about their subject – which I’m not convinced Married does. Instead of Lina and Russ realizing their flaws and working to improve themselves, Married just puts the two in ostensibly funny situations and lets them rip, trusting the characters’ innate flaws (Lina is indecisive and harangued, Russ is dunder-headed and needy) and the actors’ comic timing to earn laughs. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Additionally, Lina and Russ’s besties AJ (Brett Gelman) and Jess (Jenny Slate, fresh off her breakout turn in Obvious Child) are just as free-wheeling and self-centered, never pushing their friends to improve as human beings. What we’re left with is a group of egocentric, world-weary and stationary schlubs – hardly appealing leads.