I don’t know why I love that boy,” says Bowie (Darius McCrary) at the start of Committed. ”That boy” is the sitcom’s protagonist, Nate, who holds a physics degree from Yale but works in a used-record store to avoid the fate of the rest of his hyperintelligent family, who went bonkers.
It’s not a good omen when a character has to remind himself aloud to find his best friend endearing, but it’s a perfect harbinger for Committed, the most unlikable comedy of the season. What makes the series’ flaws especially glaring and disheartening is that it’s the networks’ only new midseason sitcom offering so far, and there’s no genre on television that’s more starved for a hit.
Early on, Nate (Josh Cooke) meets fresh-off-the-meds Marni — Jennifer Finnigan, all Kewpie face and squeaky voice aiming for Dharma but achieving Donald Duck — and the two fulfill the title’s joke: They are/should be committed. Oddball romance shows work when the leads’ adorability compensates for the plots’ predictability, but this series’ tone is so abrasive (laughs at the expense of the handicapped and a nasty homophobic subplot in the second episode) and the writing so insipid (Her: ”Are you busy?”; Him: ”No, but I’m about to get busy”) that you gotta root for the tawdry reality show that will inevitably chase Committed off the air after a couple of low-rated months.
All that said, the biggest disappointment is the way Committed squanders its talented supporting cast. Tammy Lynn Michaels, so excellent as a witchy cheerleader on The WB’s Popular, is reduced to playing a babysitter who has to whip up funny from a nanny cam and a teddy bear. (Get this woman’s claws into one of those inevitable Desperate Housewives rip-offs ASAP!) Speaking of reduced: poor Tom Poston. The Newhart alum plods through his role as a clown living in Marni’s closet in what has to be the most convoluted plot — well, I’d say twist, but that implies some degree of cleverness — device since Alf took up residence in the Tanner family kitchen.
Committed doesn’t mention 9/11 in its first three episodes, but Poston’s closeted clown, a gas-mask joke, and prescription-drug references are surely meant to evoke New Yorkers’ post-millennium neuroses. Perhaps there’s humor to be mined here — Curb Your Enthusiasm did a blistering take on the subject — but three and a half years later those jokes still require delicacy. And Committed has all the subtlety of a Xanax overdose.