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'Mad Love' series premiere: Great cast + so-so relationship story = potential?

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Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBSThere were literal fireworks on the series premiere of Mad Love. Given the incredible cast, I was expecting a little more spark. But in a weird way, I think the insultingly formulaic debut episode bodes well for the series. We got a lot of boring stuff out of the way: Ben (played by Jason Biggs) and Kate (Sarah Chalke!) meet-way-too-cute atop the Empire State Building, where they apparently hang out all the time; they have not one but two misunderstandings that pose roadblocks to their inevitable relationship; but in the end, they of course get together. Entire seasons of sitcoms have been built on less, so hopefully we’ve already answered the Ross/Rachel, Jim/Pam will-they-or-won’t-they question, and now the show can focus on more interesting things.

Like Judy Greer! She plays Connie, Kate’s dowdy grump of a best friend, who meets Larry, Ben’s burp-factory of a best friend (played by Reaper’s Tyler Labine). Connie and Larry hate each other upon first meeting, and it’s fun watching them trade barbs, even though you can tell Judy Greer knows she’s better than the material she’s given. Greer shines playing more extreme characters (Arrested Development) but gamely plays the stock sarcastic best friend — the glint of satisfaction you see when she comes up with a zinger might be worth a second episode for me.

Labine was born to play a tubby, hairy man-baby, and Larry is predictably lewd at any given opportunity. His love of jalapeno poppers and aversion to salad will undoubtedly be a constant source of comedy throughout the series, but I’m optimistic about his character. He says outright that he and Connie are not the heroes of this story, which to me means they will be. That sounds right, though. I love Chalke and like Biggs, but their relationship holds absolutely no interest so far. I see no reason for Kate to be so instantly goo-goo-eyed over milquetoast Ben, other than someone dangling something shiny behind his ear.

Ben’s ex Erin, the hyper-organized Cornell wait-lister, got some good laughs for so confidently spouting malapropisms — don’t you dare take her for “granite” while she brings over her “snatches.” I hope she doesn’t disappear after this episode.

Despite some high points, there are some serious problems here. Again, the Sleepless in Seattle-esque Empire State Building meeting was unforgivably awful. Also, what’s up with Larry’s narration? It doesn’t work on the same level as Ted’s in How I Met Your Mother and should probably be dropped. So far, the cast isn’t performing nearly at its potential, but hopefully the material will meet their talent level down the road. As far as pilots go, it wasn’t a huge disappointment. Some series survive a less-than-stellar pilot and eventually find their stride. I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory.

What did you think of Mad Love? Is it just a retread of HIMYM — and is that a bad thing? Can you see yourself liking the characters or should the cast cut their losses and jump ship ASAP?