[This is a review of Married season 1, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
Throughout the history of TV marriages, there have been perfect unions that poke the audience in the eye with their scones and satisfaction, and those that shame the institution (TV or marriage, take your pick) by downplaying the humanity and respect that is required to make a marriage work; trading those ingredients for jokes about lazy husbands, super smart wives and desperation.
Rarest are the TV marriages that portray human coupling in a way that resembles reality and respects the fact that marriage can be both frustrating and easy, hard and hilarious; buoyed by honesty (the real kind that can hurt sometimes), familiarity and a sense of partnership. Enter FX's Married, a new dramedy from producer Andrew Gurland (The Last Exorcism) with a complex, hilarious, familiar and frustrating marriage at its heart.
Starring Nat Faxon (The Way, Way Back) and Judy Greer (Archer) as Russ Bowman and Lina Bowman, Married thrives on the chemistry that exists between its leads (non-verbal communication, easy slips into laughter and the jazz of a conversation between two people who have shared everything), as they navigate through a relationship that has been made imperfect by time and life.
Lina is always busy as she keeps their three kids from killing each other (mostly), but while Russ (who works to pull in a disappointing paycheck as a graphic designer) seems like a decent father and husband, he's also consumed with chasing the ghost of the easier physical intimacy that once existed between the pair. Both Russ' and Lina's frustrations could have severely hampered this series if Gurland had chosen a less direct and more predictable approach - but while some may be put off by it, the odyssey Russ endures ultimately seems worthwhile - especially in subsequent episodes (four episodes were screened for critics) where we get a fuller idea of the bond that exists beyond their shared history and circumstances.
Besides Faxon and Greer, Married is also helped out by a tremendously gifted supporting cast that features alt-comedy stars Jenny Slate (Jess) and Brett Gelman (AJ) as a pair of morally ambiguous friends/shoulder-devils, and John Hodgman (Bernie), who plays Russ' work friend and occasional ATM. As is the case with Faxon and Greer, the language between Faxon, Slate and Gelman seems well-honed as they discuss Russ' sexual wistfulness, Jess' comparatively ancient husband (played later by the brilliantly cast Paul Reiser) and AJ's pending divorce.
Often crude and occasionally reliant on clichés (the aforementioned randy dad and the disinterested mom), Married finds a way to use the former to its advantage while never allowing itself to be defined by the latter, as the characters are given a chance to outgrow their initial flower pots.
Is this a story about falling back in love? Is it about hanging onto the things and the people who can easily be taken for granted over time? Right now it's hard to say, but we look forward to figuring that out over time. Because while Married isn't the perfect show, it is delightfully real and awfully funny.
Married premieres on Thursday July 17th @10PM ET on FX.