ABC's newest comedy Mixology, which follows the adventures of ten single people over the course of one evening at a bar, is a messy cocktail of stereotypical characters, shallow jokes, and a rather problematic format. And yet the series is actually perfectly watchable, though possibly only as a show you leave on in the background while you're doing the dishes or cleaning out the litter box. I think the key is to go in with low standards and even lower expectations—which, hey, also describes at least two of the show's main characters! In fact, here's the show in a nutshell:
Mixology certainly isn't pretending to be something it's not, but it's also not really trying to be much of anything. It exists because it exists; I'm not sure it has a real destination in mind. Given the series' one-night-only premise, there won't be much real time for character development—so even though I suspect that we're going to be seeing several characters change their minds about love, life, and everything else over the course of the series, I don't think it'll ever feel genuine.
That's not to say that events and experiences that take place in a bar can't change a person's life; however, I'd wager that the ones that do generally involve a night spent in jail or the creation of a tiny human. I'll give Mixology credit for attempting to break the standard comedy mold by setting the series over the course of a single evening, but if there's one thing that How I Met Your Mother's final season has taught us, it's that such a compact storytelling structure can damage a show's foundation. HIMYM has managed to get by simply because it's in its ninth and final season and has a loyal following; fans might occasionally grumble about the rather silly nature of the 23-episodes-in-one-weekend set-up, but they're ultimately going to stick with the show until the end. Without that established audience, Mixology is taking a much bigger risk.
That means it's particularly important for Mixology's characters to be immediately compelling; sadly, I'm not exactly sure who will care about them enough, after a one-episode encounter, to stick around for their respective journeys. The cast is large and made up of relatively unknown actors (save for Vanessa Lengies, I suppose; some viewers will recognize her as Glee's Sugar Motta or Hawthorne's Kelly Epson) and nothing that transpired in the pilot was super memorable. Pretty much every role has a stock character quality; for example, Blake Lee's Tom—the focus of the episode—just got dumped by his fiancee after an eight-year relationship because she could no longer stand how nice he was. That, and she also thought he looked like a beaver. Tom was dragged to the bar by his two best friends, Cal (Craig Frank) and Bruce (Andrew Santino), both of whom believe they know a lot about sex and women, but I get the distinct feeling that their characters have less sex than anyone else. It doesn't get much more unique that that, folks!
As a trio, Tom, Cal, and Bruce belong in a Judd Apatow movie from five years ago. And while I'm a fan of Apatow's films and the immature nature of many of their protagonists, Bruce and Cal are simple caricatures with no redeeming qualities. They kind of seem like a cheap knock-off of New Girl's Schmidt, and I don't have any interest in following their exploits, especially for multiple episodes—there are only so many obvious, raunchy jokes to be made, you know? Already, I feel like if I hear Bruce use the word smash as a verb meaning "to have sex with a woman" one more time, I will smash my fist into his face so hard I'll knock out Cal. I'm not the type of gal who's easily offended by jokes about women or having sex with women, but so far, Mixology's humor is tired and old, and Mixology's world is one where most of the female characters are really poor sketches of what men think women should be. We've seen/heard it all before—and it was better.
If Mixology wants to find success as a network comedy—and I truthfully don't feel like it'll have the chance because of its format and its shallowness—it needs to give its characters some depth beyond just the very clear-cut stereotypes they are now. As of the premiere, it's pretty clear that they haven't evolved much beyond the general outlines the writers probably drafted when they were first developing the series. In addition to the Douche Duo and their nice-guy friend, there's a cold-hearted lawyer (Ginger Gonzaga) who prides herself on her bitchiness because she was raised by a father who wanted a son, a single mother (Alexis Carra) who believes she's running out of time to find a suitable husband, a ditzy waitress (Lengies) who's sleeping with the bartender (Adan Canto) who doesn't even remember her name, two perfectly fine female sidekicks (Frankie Shaw and Kate Simses), and a token British man (Adam Campbell).
Mixology will use flashbacks to give us a glimpse at its characters' backstories and what brought them to the bar in the first place, but from what I've seen (ABC posted the first two episodes online before the premiere, and made the first three available to critics), the series only uses them as a way to reinforce stereotypes instead of adding depth. If you don't care about character development or progression, Mixology is a perfectly fine way to kill half an hour, because it clearly doesn't mind coming off as shallow and trivial. If you simply want a series to fall asleep to that requires little to no brain power to follow, then I can say with 100 percent certainty Mixology is it. But if you want a comedy with direction and purpose, I'd look elsewhere.
What'd you think of Mixology's series premiere? Will you be back for Episode 2?
AIRED ON 5/21/2014
Season 1 : Episode 13