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 writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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