[This is a review of Mixology season 1, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
Billed as a romantic comedy, Mixology utilizes an interesting but seemingly limited setting - a trendy nightclub/bar - to tell the story of ten single people (five men and five women) and their assorted meet-cutes, which happen over the course of one night.
In some ways, this is reminiscent of the way that How I Met Your Mother uses a narrative spine (despite the assorted dalliances, we know that this is all leading up to love and bliss for the main character) to dodge charges that the show is just another in a long long line of Friends pretenders. But while Mixology's pilot episode does employ flashbacks to help get it where it's going, the goings on at the bar hold the main stage - at least initially.
As we said, there are ten characters with back-stories and their own story threads to service, another challenge for producers Scott Moore and Jon Lucas (The Hangover), but one that they chose to tackle by primarily focusing on two characters in the pilot.
As Tom, Derek Lee (Parks and Recreation) plays heartsick and big-eyed. A sensitive "good guy," his fiancée woke up one day and decided that she hated him. So, cajoled by his "boys," Tom goes to the bar in search of a rebound fling. There, he spies Maya (Ginger Gonzaga), a sports lawyer with a history of utter meanness in her relationships who is seemingly looking for a type more macho then Tom. She's not an initially likable character, but when Tom's knees buckle and he gets teary after Maya gets "real" with him - telling him why his fiancée left - she wins some points by uncharacteristically giving him her number when he musters up the courage to ask.
Future episode titles indicate that we'll get a similar introduction to all of the characters - many of whom made cameos in the first episode that are barely worth mentioning for all that they gave us - British puking guy, friend of Maya's, waitress, disinterested bartender. Tom's friends Cal and Bruce, however, are given a more extended look.
As Cal, Craig Frank is forced to balance out Bruce (Andrew Santino), a crude pig of a fellow whose dialogue is a lazily developed attempt at edginess. Santino does the best that he can with what he is given, but Bruce is the show's weak point, and as his handler/wing man, Cal gets dragged along for the ride. Maybe Bruce will find true love waiting for him in the bar, but heaven help the lady who falls for whatever pick-up line he borrows from the pages of a men's magazine.
With two of the four characters that were fully, or almost fully, introduced in the pilot coming off as cold or offensive, another coming off as a sad sack of emotion, and the other thoroughly two-dimensional, it's hard to project a rosy reception for Mixology. With that said, it does have its pluses. For one, though the characters are mostly unknown to viewers, that feels like an asset as we prepare to get to know them. Besides that, the writing has its moments. Miya, while rough around the edges, does have a bite to her, and the chemistry that she has with her friend, Liv (Kate Simses), is strong.
But is that enough? It really depends on what entices you to watch a show. If you need to buy in to the characters and their journey right off the bat, Mixology won't work for you. Potentially, viewers could find themselves waiting to get fully immersed in Miya and Tom's story until the next time their number comes up in the batting order.
With that, there's the hope that these other characters catch when they're introduced, but that's asking viewers for a lot of patience, especially for a sitcom. There's just too many moving parts, and too many weird limitations that the producers put on themselves in an effort to be original. If you think that that's admirable and you want to see where this goes, though, then it might be for you.
So in closing, Mixology is a curiosity that might be worth checking out, if only to see how good or bad it gets down the road. And there's the pull quote.
Mixology airs Wednesdays on ABC @9:30pm.