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TV Preview: Mixed Signals

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Do men lie to their women in real life as much as they do on television sitcoms? Do they weasel out of trouble with their significant others by spouting clever phrases or promising to bathe the baby twice a week?

Solutions are only that easy on TV.

A good deal of lying and conniving goes on in the pilot of Mixed Signals; three long-time friends covet their freedom yet want the beautiful women they are involved with to stick around. It seems an occasional guys night out shouldn’t be too much to ask for. But for some reason these men feel they have to skirt  the truth to get what they want.

Clearly, communication is at a premium here.

Mike, (David Denman, Pam’s ex-fiance, Roy, on The Office), is a lawyer and the sole married member of the group. He watches 15 minute bits of DVDs in his car two blocks from his house, lying to his wife Lisa (Liza Lapira, Dexter, Dollhouse) about being stuck in traffic. The ruse gives him some valuable ‘me’ time before the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood reclaim him.

Adam (Nelson Franklin, The Office, I Love You, Man), a writer for Bloke magazine, is in the process of moving in with Callie (Alexandra Breckinridge, Family Guy). It is a huge step and one he doesn’t seem too sure about taking. “Coming over a lot” and “she lives with me”, he discovers, are two very different schools of thought.

Ethan (Kris Marshall, Human Target, My Family) is a bachelor who forever has a hot woman on his arm. His current relationship has, so far, lasted a month, which is close to a record for him, as hook-ups go. He is British, charming and wishes his friends would embrace the love ‘em and leave ‘em lifestyle he adopted long ago. He quotes a line from <em>Steel Magnolias</em> to bring home this point: “Three weeks of wonderful is better than a lifetime of nothing special."

Nelson Franklin’s Adam is the saving grace of this episode. He seems genuinely in love with Callie but is torn between his loyalty to her and the male camaraderie he clearly seems to need. I found myself rooting for him to get his act together and make some kind of stand. Perhaps if the show lasts more than a few episodes, he will.

Amidst the silliness (Mike being recruited to masquerade as a wrestling clown to save Adam’s job), and the seemingly endless parade of lies being tossed around, we are thrown a mystery to ponder. A fourth member of this triumvirate once existed. His name was Ben and he loved the (annoying) British pop band Chumbawumba. Moments before the fadeout, the show gets its mushy on and shows us the guys and their women at a tribute for their fallen mate. Okay. What is this about? Who was Ben? How did he die? Is this element of mystery enough to make me want to tune in again to find out? Not really. The characters need to be more appealing for me to care about them: if Mike learns to be more truthful to Lisa, and Ethan stops continually goading his friends into acting like twenty year old studs I might be more inclined to give Mixed Signals another try.

Mixed Signals was created by Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers). It is slated to air in Spring 2011 as a mid-season replacement on FOX.

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