Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Free Agents" (NBC)
The Pitch: I honestly don't know.
Quick Response: I haven't seen the original British "Free Agents," so I don't know the source material, but somewhere something went horrible wrong with "Free Agents." It's not just that it's a single camera comedy without any laughs and in which the squandered punchlines -- 98 percent of them puerile sexual banter -- lead to 22 minutes of cringing without even a single smile. No. What's crushing about "Free Agents" is that it was written by Jon Enbom ("Party Down") and directed by Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle"), two men of such prodigious talent that I'm not sure how, even by accident, they could botch a half-hour comedy's tone and pacing this badly. And then you move to the cast. Hank Azaria's a funny guy, though he's never really been funny as a leading man, has he? He's always been an extraordinarily valuable character actor, working in both comedic and dramatic contexts. Maybe that's also always been the case with Kathryn Hahn, who I'm certain I've found hilarious in the past, but maybe only in supporting roles. Anthony Head's got his "Buffy" bona fides and he's playing a character he originated on the British series, but he's stuck as an outrageous boss who, isn't outrageously funny. You're supposed to be shocked by the things Head's character is saying -- think Philip Baker Hall in "The Loop" as one fine example -- but instead of being shocked, I though "OK, so this guy's a tool." I know she's an acquired taste, but Natasha Leggero's made me laugh in the past, as has Joe LoTruglio. And Leggero and LoTruglio were definitely the two least painful parts of the pilot. But overall? Serious discomfort and unpleasantness. I'd say "Free Agents" ranked above only "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" and "Work It" in this year's comedy pack. Worst of all, it's not like "Free Agents" fails in the process of trying to be different or innovative or to push the boundaries of the genre. It fails in taking any recognizably human traits from any of the main characters and making them grotesque, then wedging them into a generic workplace sitcom. Seriously, look at the gallery picture accompanying this post. How uncomfortable to Azaria and Hahn look? That's how uncomfortable the pilot feels.
Desire To Watch Again: If I had an iota less good faith in reserve for the people involved, I would gladly never watch "Free Agents" again. But Enbom and Holland have given me a lot of good laughs. And I like Azaria and Hahn, or I've liked them in the past. And Anthony Head is freakin' Giles, which will always be a mark in his favor. Remember how I said that I'd save that one scene from "Whitney" before scrapping the rest of that pilot? There's no one scene I'd save from "Free Agents." So Episode 2 is guaranteed to be better. Look at me being all optimistic. Go, "Free Agents"!
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.