[This is a review of Marry Me season 1, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
In our review of NBC's A to Z, we noted that the series was a part of NBC's push for more love-centric sitcoms and far more rom than com. Marry Me, from Happy Endings creator David Caspe, is the opposite.
That's not to say that there aren't adorable moments, specifically in flashback as we see Annie (Happy Endings alum Casey Wilson) and Jake (Party Down's Ken Marino) meet and bond over shame nachos and her hypocrisy, but Caspe is trying to tell a tale about a couple that seems as though they are on a less linear, and thus more comedically fruitful, path.
This couple has issues from the outset. Annie seems over-dramatic and impatient after an explosion of exposition follows her and Jake through the door and they give us the rundown about their relationship status (she's 32 and they've been dating for 6 years) and the fact that they are back from a romantic vacation... A vacation that Annie obviously assumed was going to bring about Jake's magical and long awaited wedding proposal.
When the anticipated proposal doesn't happen, Annie hilariously (and enthusiastically) trashes all of the couple's friends and Jake's mother. Meanwhile, Jake rests with one knee on the ground, an engagement ring in his hands and a goofy smile fading from his face before Annie finally turns around to see that her want to force the moment had, in fact, ruined said moment. Naturally, Jake and Annie's friends and Jake's mother (JoBeth Williams) are also in the apartment, waiting to congratulate the happy couple before Annie's meltdown.
Unfortunately, that's not Annie's only screw-up in this debut episode and the show almost seems to go out of its way to paint Jake as the put-upon partner who somehow loves this manic mess that isn't exactly likable. Hopefully, as Marry Me grows, we'll see Marino get to use more of his considerable talent to bring life to a version of Jake that is more than an affable tether-ball pole that stands still while Annie plays and spins around.
It's going to be hard for Caspe to resist the urge to let Wilson have a field day, though - and no, not because they're married in real life. Wilson is a gifted comedic actress who was quite possibly the best part of Happy Endings, and her energy and over-the-top reactions (to mention nothing of her occasional willingness to literally run into a wall for a joke) paired nicely with Caspe's flair for dialogue to drive the comedy in the first episode of Marry Me.
In some ways, Annie feels like an extension of Penny, but it's hard to imagine that Marry Me will offer Wilson the kind of ensemble support and safety net that her and Caspe's previous show did; this story is built to focus on the happy couple, first and foremost. With that said, if Caspe wants to, he has a very capable supporting cast - one that even managed to outshine a few cliche sitcom best friend moments in the pilot - at his disposal thanks to Sarah Wright, John Gemberling, Tim Meadows and Tyberlee Hill.
If Marry Me is to succeed, Caspe is going to have to find a way to adjust the dials on Wilson and Marino's characters to bring them closer to even, while closing the likability gap a little. I don't think that it's mandatory that a character be likable for a show to succeed, they just can't be unlikable in comparison to their romantic partner on the show - and their relationship can't inspire people to wonder why that couple is together in the first place.
I'm hungry for a rom-com that shows us a couple with their own bent definition of destiny and Marry Me could be it. We just have to hope that it gets a little easier to root for Annie and Jake as time goes by.
Marry Me airs Tuesdays on NBC @9 pm.