Gary Unmarried is Jay Mohr’s comeback show. After breaking out of the stand-up ranks with a stint on Saturday Night Live and a part in Jerry Maguire, his career took a nosedive into roles in forgettable films (Paulie, King’s Ransom). The CBS sitcom brings him back and finally gives him a hit that he truly deserves (anyone who watched the show Action will agree with me on that).
Mohr stars as Gary, a manchild (a sitcom staple) who owns his own painting business. When the show starts, he has been divorced from his ex-wife Allison (Paula Marshall) for six months. Since then, he has been slowly re-entering the dating circuit and trying to be a good father to his two kids Tom (Ryan Malgarini) and brainiac Louise (Kathryn Newton). Unfortunately, while the marriage is over, Allison remains in his life in a bigger capacity than he would like and they get into arguments and fights, acting as if they never got divorced in the first place.
The show tackles divorce with a comedic flair, which is a little off-putting in the beginning. I know a lot of people who have divorced parents, and the way Gary Unmarried tackles it is in no way representative of that. While Gary and Allison do not like each other, they still manage to get along relatively well as they lock in a power struggle for how to correctly raise their kids.
At the same time, that’s really the point; Gary and Allison, after years of marriage, still act like a married couple and haven’t learned to live without each other. This works thanks to the chemistry of Mohr and Marshall, who are hilarious together. Mohr plays a manchild perfectly and while it’s not a role that’s really that original, his comedic timing honed from years in the business keeps the role from turning into something too generic. Marshall manages to hold her own against Mohr and gets to do more than most leading ladies get to do in sitcoms. Instead of just playing the straight woman to a bumbling guy, Marshall gets to get her own barbs in and gets her storylines, as Allison is also back on the dating circuit and the show also follows her as she attempts to find a new man. Their two kids are annoying in the beginning, but as the show progresses, they get more fleshed out and get a chance to actually shine. Ryan Malgarini especially has some hilarious moments and could have a future in TV as time goes on.
Gary Unmarried doesn’t really have that much in the way of innovation when it comes to episode plots. Chances are if you’ve watched any sitcom in the past few years, you’ll see it on Gary Unmarried, but thankfully the cast of this show keeps it from being too stale. They also benefit from the guest stint of Ed Begley Jr. as Gary and Allison’s former marriage therapist Dr. Walter Krandall who at the beginning of the show, is actually engaged to Allison. A lot of the jokes in the first half of the show gravitate around Gary making fun of Krandall’s age and Krandall attempting to overcome the lingering feelings Gary and Allison have (and won’t admit) for each other. Begley Jr. is hilarious in his role, playing the antithesis of Gary in every way possible.
Even though it’s not innovative, the writing is good enough to overcome it. However, as the show goes on, things change. Plots that start in the first seven episodes are all of a sudden dropped, and new characters are thrown into the mix in an attempt to spruce it up and change things around. It’s particularly jarring and it completely changes the show halfway through. I would have preferred that kept certain characters and didn’t introduce new ones (including Rob Riggle as Gary’s half-brother. I do not like Rob Riggle whatsoever in anything.), but I don’t write successful sitcoms, so what do I know?
Overall, the first season of Gary Unmarried is funny, especially Mohr who is taking to this like the life raft it is. Although a little older and a little pudgier, he is still on his game and as the lead character, he is strong. The supporting cast is also really funny and the writing is good enough to overcome its traditional sitcom trappings. At the same time, this is when it was finding its actual voice and although I haven’t seen the second season, I am hoping that they ironed it out and have stuck to more of a formula to make it work. Either way, this is worth a rent…but unless you are a fan of traditional sitcoms, I would avoid a buy.