We’ve already seen Bent, the new NBC comedy with the strange name premiering this week. Is it worth your half-hour investment? Here’s the scoop.
When does it air?
Bent premieres Wednesday, March 21 at 9pm on NBC. Yes, that’s directly opposite Modern Family on ABC, but ModFam is a rerun this week, so you can check out Bent and then catch a new Happy Endings afterward.
Who's in it?
Its two leads are Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’s Amanda Peet and David Walton from Perfect Couples. Peet plays Alex—a lovable, if stock, “type-A” character—and Walton plays Pete, a wise-cracking stoner who sleeps around and attends Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Jeffrey Tambor plays Pete’s theatrical dad, and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J.B. Smoove and Friday Night Light’s Jesse Plemons play guys on Pete’s crew. All in all, a very appealing cast.
Who created it?
What’s the premise?
Alex and her 10-year-old daughter, Charlie, are rebuilding their lives in a dilapidated house in Venice, Calif. because Charlie’s dad has been imprisoned for embezzling money—which he gave to his mistress. Pete is the caddish contractor Alex hires to renovate the house, and she’s reluctant to admit she finds him charming despite his slutty, slacker ways. Then there’s Aunt Screwsie, Alex’s sister, who is basically the female version of Pete. And Pete’s dad, Walt, a bachelor with a passion for musical theater who makes his living playing piano in a department store. That’s about it! Just another guy meets girl, guy renovates girl’s house, they verbally spar and flirt and keep up the romantic tension until they finally do it, and the show loses its magic.
What’s the vibe?
There’s a comfort-food quality to the show. Nothing new happening here, kind of predictable, but you don’t really mind tagging along for the ride. There’s little by way of laugh-out-loud hilarity in the pilot, but you may smile a few times.
Who is the audience?
Your stoner girlfriend. Beyond that, this is unoffensive comedy for thirty-somethings who don’t identify with the new-parent comedy of Up All Night. It’s a sadder Cougar Town. It’s the lonely person’s Modern Family. You get the point.
What are its strengths?
The two leads. Walton is a likable actor, and it’s nice to see him slow down a bit—his Perfect Couples character was just a little too manic and fast-talking for me to ever really appreciate him. Peet plays "shrill and tightly wound" well, but let’s hope she turns it down as the show progresses. Their chemistry is there.
Tambor’s character is definitely strange—slightly reminiscent of George Bluth Sr. in how self-absorbed he is and how he operates on his own, eccentric frequency.
The writing is okay, though at times the pilot felt like it was biding time more than advancing the story or giving us added insights into the characters.
Are there any drawbacks I should know about?
The character of Charlie holds the show back. She’s just a sad, insecure little girl who is kind of a downer, and the actress who plays her (Joey King, from Crazy Stupid Love) doesn’t do much to elevate the material. I was also disappointed to see Smoove and Plemons, both excellent in their other TV roles, seeming constrained by the material. They're both in very supporting parts, though, with time to grow.
Also, in the pilot there’s a running gag about a rival contractor—an obese, butch lesbian who spits and is generally foul—that I found more homophobic than funny. And the “Pete redeems himself by helping Charlie overcome her piano recital stage fright” plot that takes up the third act is very trite and corny.
Why is the show called Bent?
Good question. I think it’s a reference to a line by Walt, who is on the prowl at a local watering hole: “I’m not broken, I’m just bent.” Does that answer your question? No? I guess it means the show's characters are “imperfect, but not beyond redemption.” Yeah, I know, kind of lame.
So should I watch it or not?
Sure. It’s worth a look for Walton and Tambor alone. And it definitely has potential—so long as the show seeks out the harder edges to its characters. Otherwise, it risks being just another pleasant-but-forgettable romantic sitcom that audiences will never warm to.
Is there a trailer I can take a look at?
What kind of takeout should I order to eat while watching it?
Thai. Definitely Thai.