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Columnist
Fox comes 'Unhitched'
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald TV & Radio Writer

"Unhitched" isa new Foxcomedy about thirtysomethings on theoutside looking in at love.

 

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Published: 2/29/2008 12:06 AM

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When the Farrelly brothers, who never met a gross-out joke they didn't like, come to Fox, home of TV's crassest comedies, the caustic mixture could achieve critical mass and a create a bomb of epic proportions.

So what's surprising about "Unhitched" when it debuts at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on WFLD Channel 32 is how honest it is about young-adult relations. Oh, there's plenty of gross-out humor and sophomoric sight gags, but also an offhand sophistication reminiscent of "Seinfeld."

Viewers who don't expect too much -- and have a high tolerance for bodily functions -- might be pleasantly amused.

As the title suggests, "Unhitched" is about four not-so-young adults cast adrift in the seas of love. Craig Bierko stars as Jack "Gator" Gately, a big, blustery, jovial guy who's not quite ready to sign the divorce papers ending his marriage. Rashida Jones is Kate, the lawyer who did his divorce, as well as those of his friends, Shaun Majumder's Dr. Freddy Sahgal and Johnny Sneed's microbrewmaster Tommy (three times!). With Kate recently cut loose too, they're four friends looking for love.

And not quite satisfied with what they find, as when a baby orangutan belonging to Gator's prospective girlfriend gets in on their "action."

"Gator had a run-in with a bi-curious George," Tommy explains matter-of-factly as Dr. Freddy ministers to his wounds.

The pilot was actually written by Michael Bernier and Chris Pappas and directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who also claim roles as producers. So the debut delights in their usual visual humor, such as Dr. Freddy apparently having sex with a prostitute (only it turns out he's not), mixed in with tasteless jokes about people in wheelchairs and Dr. Freddy's uncertain grasp of English idioms.

"Trust me, at work nurses are constantly beating me off with a stick," he insists.

Yet, even though the Farrelly brand informs its comedy, there's more to "Unhitched" than just cheap yuks and scatological humor, and upcoming episodes show it expanding its range. When they're all out for cocktails and Kate gets sent a drink by a guy across the bar, she decides to accept and meet him.

"All right, I'm going in," she says. "How do I look?"

"I don't know," Gator says.

"No boogers," Tommy adds.

"I've really got to get some girlfriends," an exasperated Kate resolves.

The "Seinfeldian" touches show up when Kate later moans, "I can't believe I slept with an air guitarist," a line that could all too easily have come out of the mouth of Elaine, while Gator has to deal with a new girlfriend's off-putting growth on her back. Those are awkward Larry David-esque details given a distinctly Farrelly twist.

The hallmark of the Farrelly brand is humor that's not stupid but stoopid, deliberately dumb, idiotic with a purpose and gleefully addicted to the gross and the tasteless. That's all there in "Unhitched," but it also has a wry, bemused, observational tone all its own. It displays a warmth for its characters that sets it apart from other, more typically cruel Fox sitcoms. It's not quite as polished an ensemble piece as CBS' more conventional "How I Met Your Mother," but it's not trying to be.

It also has a deceptive intelligence. (It should surprise no one that Bierko was a theater student at Northwestern, while Jones is a Harvard alumna.) I'm not yet sure how good it's going to be, and I don't think it will ever come off with a line as blithely comical as "Tanqueray and Tab, and keep 'em comin'," but it has promise. After all, when you open with a joke about being violated by a baby ape, there's no place to go but up.