With midseason TV in full swing, all of the major networks are seeking success with new romantic comedies. There’s NBC’s “Perfect Couples,” which launched last week, Fox’s “Traffic Light” (Feb. 8), CBS’ “Mad Love” (Feb. 14), and ABC’s “Happy Endings” (April 13).
So why the trend? And why now? “Comedy started to get harder, mean and more cynical and the natural blow back from that is romantic comedies, says “Mad Love” show runner Matt Tarses. “There was and is a lot of workplace comedies and family comedies, but no romantic comedies and I think we all saw that.”
Jon Pollack, show runner of “Perfect Couples,” says that the success of ABC’s “Modern Family” opened the door to this new wave of rom-coms. “‘Modern Family’ is very relationship-oriented, though focused on family, so there was space for relationship-oriented shows focused on couples.”
Though the four new shows in question – “Mad Love,” “Happy Endings,” “Perfect Couples,” and “Traffic Light,” might share a genre, they are all vastly different.
Let’s break ‘em down for you…
“Perfect Couples” (NBC, Jan. 20, 8:30-9 p.m. ET/PT)
Star Power: “Worst Week”‘s Kyle Bornheimer (Dave), “FlashForward”‘s Christine Woods (Julia), “Burlesque”‘s David Walton (Vance), “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”‘s Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Amy), “She’s Out of My League”‘s Hayes MacArthur (Rex), “Attack of the Show”/”The Daily Show”‘s Olivia Munn (Leigh).
What It’s About: “It’s about three very different couples and how they navigate their relationships and their friendships and I think ours is done very realistically. It’s how real couples talk. The extra twist in our show is we have a fourth couple, and the fourth couple is the bro-mance between the Dave and Vance characters,” says Pollack.
What We Love: The diversity in the less-than-perfect three couples, which range from the crazy-in-love, super high-drama romance of Vance and Amy to the more mature married duo of Dave and Julia to the know-it-all type-A “relationship experts” Rex and Leigh. There’s something for everyone, and it’s therapeutic to boot.
Who’s Guest-Starring: Show runners Pollack (“30 Rock”) and Scott Silveri (“Friends”) say not to expect a slew of guest stars. “We’re really focused on these six characters their relationships. And God bless them, each is a star in his or her own right but also work so well in pairs and couples and as a group,” says Silveri.
Sneak Peek: “Perfect Couples:”
“Traffic Light” (Fox, Feb. 8, 9:30-10 p.m. ET/PT)
Star Power: “The Office”‘s David Denman (Mike), “The Office”/”I Love You Man”‘s Nelson Franklin (Adam), “Love Actually”‘s Kris Marshal (Ethan), “Dollhouse”‘s Liza Lapira (Lisa), “Deception”‘s Aya Cash (Callie)
What It’s About: “It’s based on an Israeli show titled ‘Ramzor,’ which means traffic light and the premise is that there’s a couple at the red light, they’re married and settled and that’s where they want to be (Mike and Lisa) and there’s a couple at the yellow light (Adam and Callie) who are just moving in with each other to see if they go forward, and the green light is the perpetual bachelor (Ethan),” say show runner Bob Fisher. “We really mine the minds of our writers for the most reality-based relationship situations,” adds show runner David Hemingson. “But as much as it’s a rom-com, you can call it rom-com, ro-bro, brom-con, our show does have the romantic comedy element but it’s also about the guys and their friendships.”
What We Love: Getting to see the rom-com more from the male point of view and all of the little lies, deceptions, and minor manipulations that play out so realistically.
Who’s Guest-Starring: They’ve nabbed a lot of comedian-actor types, such as “The League”‘s Paul Scheer, “Funny or Die Presents…”‘s “Rob Huebel, “Hung”/”Crossing Jordan”‘s Kathyrn Hahn, “Life as We Know It”‘s Kumail Nanjiani, “Parks and Recreation”‘s Jason Mantzoukas, and many more.
Sneak Peek: “Traffic Light:”
“Mad Love” (CBS, Feb. 14, 8:30-9 p.m. ET/PT)
Star Power: “American Pie”‘s Jason Biggs (Ben Parr), “Scrubs”‘ Sarah Chalke (Kate Swanson), “Sons of Tuscon”/”Reaper”‘s Tyler Labine (Larry Munsch), “13 Going on 30″/”Arrested Development”‘s Judy Greer (Connie Grabowski)
What It’s About: “It’s about a couple (Ben and Kate) that meets in a very romantic meet-cute sort of way with very cynical best friends (Larry and Connie) that take immediate dislike toward one another. The show becomes about these two couples moving along in a relationship in very different ways. It’s about two different ways to look at true love. As we get further along we realize the couple that hates each other are the ones more likely to after years and years to be together,” says Tarses.
What We Love: Sarah Chalke is hilarious. Tyler Labine is a LOL funny as usual. Jason plays it perfectly, and Judy does that cynical thing Judy does so well. Hands’ down the best rom-com cast of the new season. And the will they?/won’t they? aspect of Judy and Tyler’s storyline will be a fun ride to watch.
Who’s Guest-Starring: Martin Starr (“Party Down”), Chris Parnell (“30 Rock”) plays a love interest for Judy’s character, Brittany Snow (“Harry’s Law”) plays Sarah’s character’s sister, and more.
Sneak Peek: “Mad Love:”
“Happy Endings” (ABC, April 13, 10-10:30 p.m. ET/PT)
Star Power: “24″‘s Elisha Cuthbert (Alex), “Scrubs”‘ Eliza Coupe (Jane), “FlashForward”‘s Zachary Knighton (Dave), Upright Citizens Brigade Theater’s Adam Pally (Max), Damon Wayons, Jr. (Brad), “Saturday Night Live”s Casey Wilson (Penny)
What It’s About: “Our show starts out with a breakup where Alex leaves her longtime boyfriend (Dave) at the altar and what we see is the aftermath of that relationship and the relationship among this group of six friends and how they can stay friends when this central couple exploded in the middle of the their group,” says show runner David Caspe. “But by episode 3, we don’t really deal with that anymore and out of the friends only one is a couple, the others are single girl, single gay, and single gay guy and we do see them date, but it’s not necessarily a ‘looking for love’ type show.”
What We Love: The oh-so-familiar awkwardness of who gets the friends after a break-up is played out brilliantly, and Casey Wilson gets to show off her funny side with wild abandon as Penny.
Who’s Guest-Starring: They’re using a lot of Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre actors, such as Paul Sheer, Rob Huebel, Brett Gelman, Jeff Morris, Danielle Schneider, John Bailey, Ian Roberts. “Yeah, we went down the UCB list because everyone over this is so funny,” adds Caspe.
Sneak Peek: “Happy Endings:”