Mike's Adventures in Sitcomland: Day Three

I came to Gary Unmarried with, yes, a fair amount of skepticism, but also with a small shimmering globule of hope. Like Gary, I'm unmarried (though, unlike Gary, I'm not unmarried due to divorce), and I'm also still grasping onto the possibly unjustified belief that Jay Mohr -- frequently criticized for his work in ... well, pretty much everything he's ever done -- actually has within him the possibility for comic greatness, or at least reasonable comic goodness. 

Now that I find myself wanting to defend that belief, though, I can't say with any real certainty where it comes from, except maybe a few funny Christopher Walken impressions on Saturday Night Live, a sort-of-funny bit part in the movie Go, and the fact that I often enjoy Snarky Asshole characters,* which Mohr seems fairly adept at portraying**.

The premise of Gary Unmarried is that Gary (Mohr) has recently divorced his wife of 15 years and is now trying to live on his own. He runs a painting business that seems to not be particularly successful (he has only one employee, and when that employee paints the interior of Gary's new bachelor pad, he manages to paint the windows shut). Despite this non-success, he's somehow able to live in a prototypical sitcom house,*** by himself, while also paying child support and a portion of his wife's living expenses.

Though there is at least a brief nod to Gary's probable financial woes, since in the episode I watched -- "Gary Marries Off His Ex" -- part of the plot revolves around Gary trying to convince his old marriage counselor (played by Ed Begley, Jr.), who's now dating Gary's ex-wife, to hurry up and marry her already, so he can stop paying her so much money. The other part of the plot revolves around Gary's improbably hot girlfriend**** wanting him to move on with his life, i.e. paint his new house, buy dishes not made of paper, etc., and presumably in turn get more serious with her.

If this all sounds like fairly standard sitcomish stuff, it is, though I have to admit there were a couple moments of actual humor, like when Gary stole his wife's expensive Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, then admitted he didn't even know what it was for and took it out of spite (later in the episode, he also steals its replacement from her kitchen). It's not even that the stealing itself is particularly funny, just that the Kitchen-Aid mixer is pretty much the perfect representation of a Married Product, in that people tend to own them only because they registered for them and someone actually forked over $400 to buy them one. It's also a product I can completely believe his wife would be pissed over losing, because I in fact registered for one, before I decided not to get married, and if I'd gotten it I would have guarded it fiercely, partly for its utility but mainly because it's like a beautiful art object for one's kitchen*****.

The success or failure of this show, I think, will ultimately turn on Mohr's ability to be a reliably funny and improbably likable Snarky Asshole. If Vince Vaughn were in this show, for instance, it would probably be hilarious. But Mohr is, sadly, no Vince Vaughn; his humor operates at about 1/3 of Vaughn's frenetic pacing, and because he hasn't fully embraced his Everyman Schlubbishness in the way Vaughn (mostly) has, his brand of asshole-ishness has the off-putting scent of the guy who still thinks he could get by on his looks******.

Verdict: I may actually watch this show again, against all rationality, because I still think there's hope for Mohr to save himself, and this show seems to be the proper vehicle for him to do it. Because the very things Mohr would need to do to be successful in this show -- embrace his Everyman Schlubbishness, be a more likable variety of asshole -- are also the things Mohr needs to do to be successful in general.

*I also used to be a sometime-defender of David Spade, though I've long since given that up.

**At this point we probably have to concede that Mohr, like Spade, is in fact a real-life snarky asshole, though while this makes me like Spade less, for some reason it only makes me like Mohr more. I have no idea why this is, except I think having a few beers with Mohr might be fun, whereas having a few beers with Spade would be interminable. Maybe because Mohr seems to at least partially embrace his schlubbishness, whereas David Spade continues to think he's the cool guy in a circa 1992 high school cafeteria. I mean, come the fuck on.

***Almost every sitcom house is a 1950's-era bungalow or craftsman in a vaguely suburban (but not exurban) neighborhood, where the homes are close together but all feature fenced yards and driveways. It's funny that in sitcoms these homes tend to represent something like "working class family" despite the fact these kinds of homes, in old, nicely tree-lined neighborhoods usually within easy commuting distance of a city's downtown business district, haven't really been "working class" since maybe the late 1970s (the recent fallout in home prices notwithstanding).

****Of course every male character on pretty much every sitcom is paired up with an improbably hot girlfriend, even if that male character looks like, for instance, Kevin James. In Gary Unmarried's case, though, I suppose this might be slightly less ridiculous, since in real life Mohr's first wife was a model and his current wife is an actress. On the other hand, if Mohr were in fact a house painter, rather than an actor, I'm not sure how likely these pairings would be, in so far as Mohr isn't unattractive, but he's not exactly Brad Pitt, either. In Gary Unmarried he's starting to show his age, with a haircut that's about three years away from becoming a full-on combover, and a paunch not unlike Vince Vaughn's in The Break-Up. 

*****Yes, I'm kind of a woman.

******Mohr's blonde hair doesn't help. For some reason -- and I'm not saying this is fair -- men who are still blonde beyond the age of, say, 22, tend to come across as narcissistic assholes.


dave said...

Oh, man, you have to rent Action.


It's the best Jay Mohr has to offer, b/c he plays a total douchebag asshole movie producer. Ileana Douglas plays a hooker he hires as an executive. Everybody pretty much goes all out with the unlikable asshole routine. It's almost like It's Always Sunny in Hollywood, except Jay Mohr is the main asshole. Actually, Always Sunny is funnier, but Action is definitely worth netflix-ing. He hasn't done anything as asshole-ish and funny since, and that's a shame.

Mike said...

I've always wanted to see that show, actually. I remember it being on TV, then pretty quickly no longer on TV.