I think the most surprising thing about CBS's new sitcom Mad Love was that the first episode was titled "Fireworks," not "Pilot." While this may not seem all that exciting to you, I am getting awfully tired of "Pilot" being the name of the first episode of every TV series. Some of the best shows to ever grace the airwaves used a title other than "Pilot," and I am pleased to see a series (the first this year, I think) do that.
Now if you wonder why I might spend a paragraph praising a show for an episode title, it's because there's not a lot else to praise. The plot was corny, predictable, derivative, had gaping holes, and was far too dumb for my taste. A chance meeting between two strangers that fall for each other, I will buy. It's a romantic comedy staple, and one that still works. But the elaborate and ridiculous stumbles that happened in the half hour that followed were barely enjoyable, if that. Getting caught on a girl's earring so it looks like you're kissing her? Really? Are the writers that lazy?
I think what disappoints me the most is that the principal cast consists of four great comedic actors who have all done excellent work before. Jason Biggs (American Pie, Jersey Girl) and Sarah Chalke (How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs) play Ben and Kate, the central couple mentioned. Their combative best friends Larry and Connie are played by Tyler Labine (Reaper) and Judy Greer (Archer, Arrested Development, and roughly one million scene-stealing guest star spots). With a foursome this good, how can the show possibly miss?
And yet, it does. Ben and Kate are boring. Sure, they have good chemistry and are charming in their own right, but with a story this lame and unoriginal, it's hard to get interested. If the show succeeds it will be because Larry and Connie get developed in an interesting way. The duo clash like bitter enemies, which means they will soon end up in bed together. The final narration by Larry at the end of the episode almost made it seem like Larry and Connie will be the central couple, not Ben and Kate. If that happens, there may just be a spark of something fresh and neat here. But only if the writing improves dramatically.
Mad Love airs Monday nights at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.