Marry Me, Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”
October 14, 2014, 9:00 PM, NBC
As we wind down from the pilots of the new series of the 2014/2015 seasons, it’s always important to keep in mind that while any pilot is a crap shoot in terms of potential and longevity, pilots for comedies in particular have it especially rough. It’s rare to get a Brooklyn Nine-Nine where everything right off the bat is fully formed and realized. There have been many instances where some of the most beloved comedies of the last two decades started off rough with some of the worst pilots and first episodes imaginable before finally finding their comedic voices and start hitting it out of the park. One of these shows from a few years ago was Happy Endings. Co-created by David Caspe, the show was created in the mold of How I Met Your Mother and Friends. But after a rough pilot and even rougher first few episodes (which were so rough they were banished to the summer after its 1st season), the series did a tiny bit of retooling (mainly letting its lead actors Elisha Cuthbert and Zachary Knighton get in on the comedic action with the rest of the cast) and from season 2 on, the show hit its stride and was for 2 seasons one of the best comedies on network tv. Fast forward to tonight, we have the follow up to Happy Endings, Marry Me. Again created by David Caspe and starring comedy MVP Ken Marino and Casey Wilson, former supporting cast member of Happy Endings (and SNL for a year) and now lead as well as his real life wife, the pilot has the same quick wit and pop culture savvy of Happy Endings, while also representing a slight shift in maturity. If Happy Endings was about the waning days of the bachelor years of your late 20s, then Marry Me is about the reluctant maturity of your early 30s and how hard it is to achieve it, even when you’ve found “the one”.
We begin on Jake and Annie returning home after a weeklong trip to Mexico for their six year anniversary. Disappointed that he didn’t propose to her during said trip, Annie finally lets loose a legendary tirade about him, their relationship, their best friends and his mom with her back to him. Jake meanwhile is on one knee with a box and a ring, ready to pop the question. After finally turning around and accepting his botched proposal, the very people she insulted (as well as her dads) come out from where they were hiding for the surprise engagement party. With the mood thoroughly soured, Jake and Annie spend some time apart with their respective best friends as they ponder their relationship, as well as flashback to their meet cute over hate nachos. Determined to set things right, Annie decides to propose to Jake at his office cubicle. This one goes better, that is until Jake’s boss overhears the “week on vacation in Mexico” part of Annie’s speech to Jake. Which conflicts with the story Jake told of being in the hospital in agony over whether or not to pull the plug on his ailing father. Now fired from his job, both parties are afraid that these are signs that maybe they shouldn’t be together. But after finding each other at the same Mexican restaurant they met each other at six years ago, they take that as the appropriate sign and third time’s the charm.
Like A to Z, Marry Me represents part of a recent wave of network sitcoms that fill the void left behind by the rom-coms of the 90’s and 00’s. And like A to Z, the key factor to the show’s success is the chemistry between the two leads. Ken Marino, a gifted member of The State and frequent collaborator with David Wain who specializes in playing funny douchebags, is finally given a role on a network show worthy of him in Jake, a normal, decent guy who needs Annie in his life to challenge him. But for me, this is Casey Wilson’s show through and through. Annie is basically Penny from Happy Endings, but with a whole new set of insecurities that informs her character. It is a bold choice to have the leading lady of your comedy show deliver an angry tirade that in lesser hands would make her look like an insane and spiteful woman that no one would spend six seconds with, let alone six years. And for some, this fountain of vitriol would be enough to switch over to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But Wilson has always had an inherent likability to her as well as an adept sense of comic timing to her incredibly fast delivery. And while the first few minutes has her venting, the rest of the pilot has her realizing her massive flaws and eating crow while making things worse before it gets better. As for the supporting cast of friends and family members, it’s too soon to call which ones are going to be the stand-outs within the ensemble. Heck, I recognized David Leslie Baker (Stanley from The Office) as Jake’s former boss and Kimmy Roberts (aka. Lucy from Twin Peaks) as the waitress during their meet cute more than the majority of the cast. The only other notable cast member at this point is former SNL alumni Tim Meadows as one of Annie’s dads (there’s already a good running gag of a shared delusion between Annie and Meadows over whether or not he’s her actual biological father).
While the pilot has a few wrinkles in it due to the obvious pilot problems of unnatural expository dialogue and stock sitcom characters, the identifiable Happy Endings humor (the show manages to make a joke about an ill-worded Challenger comparison work) and the natural chemistry between Wilson and Marino helps to make Marry Me one of the more interesting new sitcoms of the season. Like with Happy Endings, hopefully they can hit their stride and make the show one of the best sitcoms on network tv and NBC cannot make the same mistake ABC made.
Aside from a few standard problems inherent in any sitcom pilot (expository dialogue, stock characters), Marry Me contains the promise of picking up where Happy Endings left off, with Wilson and Marino as our guides.