By Ken Tucker
Updated September 14, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT

Free Agents — a.k.a., The Hank Azaria and His Amazing Pectorals Show — is an odd failure of a sitcom. The thing should work (it’s got the talent, for sure — Todd Holland directed the pilot; Party Down‘s John Enborn is co-creator) but the debut episode on Wednesday night was flat and sometimes just plain embarrassing.

By embarrassing, I’m referring specifically to the early scene in which Azaria’s Alex is forced by his boss, Stephen (Anthony Head) to talk about his most recent sexual encounter. It would require a lewd vocabulary of Louis C.K.-esque proportions to make that sort of demand funny. But because this is broadcast TV, the series of euphemisms Alex is compelled to come up with were just stop-the-show dull, and Stephen glee seemed forced. (I’m not usually one of those the-Brits-do-it-better kind of guys, but I did watch the original, British version of this sitcom, which BBC America will air next month and which also co-stars Head, and it was much better, because the sex talk was more blunt, more imaginatively absurd, more — how can I put it? — dirty!)

The other unaccountable flaw in Free Agents is that Azaria seems to have zero chemistry with Kathryn Hahn’s Helen. Hahn is a very good actor (she plays one of the few characters I find interesting in HBO’s humid Hung), but she and Azaria, for all their laughing, crying, and sexing, just don’t spark to each other…

…in the first episode, I am compelled to add. Sometimes it takes a while for a show, especially a sitcom, to find its rhythm, to discover which characters, and characteristics of those characters, work. For me, Free Agents was a laugh-free half-hour. Bur especially since it’s paired with Up All Night, I’m bound to watch it again and see if it gets better.

Perhaps you disagree…

Twitter: @kentucker