Let’s face it, there is a never a never ending stream of sitcoms in this day and age. There are now several channels on satellite television that dedicate themselves largely to comedic shows, that it frequently appears impossible to devise something new and original to appease a growing audience desperate for something to make them laugh and distract them from the ever-increasing futility of life.
It would appear that the comedic forces that be have settled on three situations that float the general boat, as most sitcoms will be based around a family situation (The Goldbergs, The Middle etc), workplace (The Office, Brooklyn 99) or the ever classic group of 20-30something adults, with Friends being the obvious benchmark that all comedies of that ilk will be judged by.
Undateable definitely falls into the latter category, and one can understand it perhaps floated under the radar of most people, with How I Met Your Mother having been the only programme to come close to matching the popularity of Friends, especially for those coming across the Atlantic to make it to the UK.
Not to be confused with The Undateables on Channel 4, a programme that makes a mockery of that group of channels promoting mental health week. Given that everything that is not scripted comedy on Channel4/E4 is designed to mock people for either poor choices or unusual defects, it almost feels that their choice of programming is culpable for the levels of self-doubt some people might possess. It’s a personal opinion and quite frankly completely off-topic, so I’ll stop there.
Back to Undateable then. Unfortunately a concluded show now having come to the end of a three season run in 2016, it took the oft-travelled route of combing a set of young adults attempting to manoeuvre their way through life, with the subject of their love lives and complications of friendship being the main themes.
How to give it a twist then? How to give it that edge of the countless number of other shows doing the same thing?
There is nothing harder than live comedy in terms of the entertainment industry, so to keep a full 20-odd minute show going as a one-take thing is impressive, especially given a cast that doesn’t simply break the fourth-wall, but toys with it in the way a cat might with the still-live mouse they’ve brought in to simply release and catch all over again.
Stars Chris D’Elia and Brent Morin display great chemistry as an odd-couple style team of roommates, and they are ably backed up by a string of background players, all coming into their own when called upon, with Ron Funches perhaps the stand-out person of the bunch.
This is a show that deviates away from the normal script of your average sitcom, with the players involved repeatedly breaking character as the series progresses, delivering personal insults to the actor across from them, often out of place to the conversation being orated at the time.
For this is what makes it different to every other sitcom out there, taking away the sense of it being the writing that has made you laugh. This isn’t simply a group of actors getting the jokes written for them across in the best way possible. This is a group of genuinely funny people, given a rough situation, and just letting loose and having fun.
You almost sense they are attempting to mess each other up, and the pauses that have recently been written out of sitcoms are back, as the actors and actresses require composing themselves to deliver their own riposte, while background characters are somewhat visibly struggling to contain their own laughter at what is unfolding around them, with Bianca Kajlich most prone to breaking down.
It is also a premise that has managed to get the best out of their guest stars as well. For too long we’ve seen people drafted in to simply be a foil for the original cast, give them something to bounce off and appear even funnier. Undateable instead gives them few parts in their appearances, but allows them to maximise their own comedic attributes and all simply look like they enjoy their time on screen and interacting with the cast.
Is Undateable an original idea? Of course it isn’t. The idea of sex, relationships and friends enjoying the early stages of life is a situation that has been done so many times, but Undateable gives it a unique twist compared to the other offerings out there.
The writing that has gone into this is nothing special, as it relies more on the cast themselves to get things across and make the show entertaining, something they do very well. The one-liners don’t feel as forced as they might in other shows, as you can see the sparkle in the eyes of some of them as they come to them.
It might not have been groundbreaking, but there was a sense that Undateable has been heavily undervalued and underappreciated in the time it was on-air. If you have found yourself tired with the series of very bland and short-lived comedies being released over the past few years, it would only be worthwhile going and checking this out, as it delivers in a great way, with the sparkling personality of the cast equating to a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend half-an-hour of your life.