Free Agents: NBC's Schlubby New Comedy Faces an Uncertain Future

There's not a whole lot to Free Agents, the latest remake of a British comedy developed by NBC. The premise is very real in today's world of collapsing marriages and dying fiancés (okay maybe not so much that last part): A recently divorced, self-professed "middle-aged" man (Hank Azaria) has sex with his co-worker (Kathryn Hahn), who is fresh off the death of her fiancé. Things get awkward as they try to hide their sexual relationship from co-workers yet can't stop hooking up with each other, and blah blah blah.

What the premiere did well was move along at a nice pace. The dialogue and editing effortlessly came together, and the episode didn't feel like a pilot because, in terms of production, it was very polished. The cast seems comfortable with each other, too, as if the series is well into its third season, and the jokes don't have that telltale sitcom ring. In short, Free Agents hit the ground running by getting its klutzy exposition out of the way in the opening scene.

One huge thing that may get in the way of Free Agents' success is the observation our own Price Peterson hit on the head with a gigantic warhammer: "Free Agents" should be called Your Parents Having Sex: The Series." There's a reason sitcoms about romance are almost exclusively feature casts full of twentysomethings. It's a crappy phenomenon, but it's real. Society doesn't want to see a divorced shlub in his 40s pine over his 40-something co-worker who is new to the dating pool because her fiancée recently died. I give NBC credit for trying it, because love is love and everyone should be able to have their story told, but I just don't see it grabbing an audience.

There's some charm to the show's breezy humor and it already feels like a veteran, but so far Free Agents is missing the magnetic draw that will bring viewers back for a second helping. It's too early to tell what the future holds, but for now let's just call the show run of the mill.

A few additional observations:
... NBC has called the series a "workplace comedy," but the office setting seems designed only to have other characters around. That's fine for a show like The Office, because episodes are almost exclusively set in the office. Here, that's not the case.

... Anthony Head reprises his role as bossman Stephen, and he's hands-down the best part of the show.

... Can Azaria carry a series? I don't think so. Especially with a character as drab as Alex. And I don't want to think of Hank Azaria having sex. Kathryn Hahn is pretty great, though.

... I always love Joe Lo Truglio (the sword-obsessed security guard), but someday he needs to play a role that's more than just "the weird guy." I thought he was great in Sons of Tucson as the whipped friend. Here he's just being mined for "crazy dude" jokes.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Sep 19, 2011
I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use Bidsget.com
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Sep 17, 2011
I dont know I just found the whole thing a bit boring. Except for the two main characters trying to hook up and people going around talking about sex nothing really happened.It was not a bad show but I just couldnt get into watching it.I think it need to have more meat to it
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Sep 17, 2011
It was much better than the pilot for "Up All Night"!
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Sep 16, 2011
Bad show! Not just the writing but the whole idea of divorced and widows sleeping together is just not funny! NBC has turned into a joke at least they don't mess up the olympics, wait I frogot they messed up the 2010 games by stopping the closing cermony to show that aweful "Marrige Ref" and then coming back like at midnight! The only thing worth a dime on NBC is the news and Olympics!
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Sep 16, 2011
I had no intention of watching Free Agents -- the trailer and promos looked fairly bad -- but I had some free time and watched it anyways, and I actually liked it quite a bit. I'd agree with Tim that it didn't really feel like a pilot, and that may be part of what I liked about it. The only drawback I can think of is that I found myself liking the show, but not necessarily Azaria and Hahn. I don't know how long I can watch a show where I prefer all the supporting characters over the two main ones. But I'll keep watching for now.
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Sep 16, 2011
Oh, come on... Hank Azaria is awesome! Plus, when George Clooney has sex millions of people over the world collectively swoon and he's way past the 20 something criteria. I think this show has great potential, and as long as the writing remains fresh and spicy it will probably keep viewers tuned. Not to mention the characters are really believable, which only adds to the awkward comedy draw.
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Sep 16, 2011
I feel sorry for Hank for getting involved in this lame show. Maybe it will improve, and hope it does, because it has plenty of room for doing so. He does deserve better writing, and most of all, a better supporting cast. They are all mostly just not even likable.
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Sep 16, 2011
I got 1 minute in before turning it off... I hate awkward tv comedy....
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Sep 16, 2011
I like Hank but he deserves a better vehicle! This makes him look like a wussy of a man!

It was a warm milk show, not great, not bad, just warm. Still better than all the reality, dancing, amateur hour shows that are on out together.!!
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Sep 16, 2011
Can Hank Azaria carry a series? Definitely. Can he do it while pretending to be Stephen Mangan? No.
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Sep 16, 2011
i Liked it, it was fresh and funny, great chemistry between the two.
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Sep 16, 2011
Haven't watched it yet, but I'm going to check it out for the Giles-factor :P
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Sep 16, 2011
to answer your question yes viewers are willing to watch a middle aged man trying to get laid...hello "40 Year old Virgin" anyone? lol
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Sep 16, 2011
I'll keep watching for Giles (Anthony Head).
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Sep 16, 2011
My guess is Whitney and Free Agents will both get the axe, Up All Night will move to "Comedy Night Done Right," where it belongs.
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Sep 16, 2011
Poor writing!! I think the director slept thru this.(almost joined him!!) I've never seen the british version for comparison but I can only imagine NBC picking this runt of the litter!! I like Azaria/Hahn and can't see any reason for them NOT to have some input, so I'll go with my gut and say it ran down the back of the proverbial duck.
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Sep 16, 2011
I liked it enough to definitely watch it again.
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