Apr 12, 2011

Eulogy: Perfect Couples

Perfect Couples: Not perfect soon enough (NBC)

Friends, we gather today to mourn the loss of Perfect Couples. While it wasn't granted much time on this earth, it's hard to say that anyone was surprised at its length of life. If we learn anything from Perfect Couples, let it be this: when you're a network looking for an immediate hit, you might not want to go with a show that takes half a season to pull its head out of its ass. You can't promote a show with a terrible pilot, and no matter how good it gets half a dozen episodes down the road, you won't win viewers unless you can afford stick it out. This might seem harsh, but those of you who truly knew Perfect Couples from a simpler time know that it's true: the pilot was awful... and I'm going to show you why a potentially good show was destined to be cancelled. *cue "he just said the name of the blog" music*

In the pilot, we're introduced to three couples: the crazy couple, the "overly perfect" couple, and the average couple. We know this from the first scene thanks to a writer who clearly needs to look up the word subtle in a dictionary.

The three couples all find themselves dealing with the same issue: the chick is hogging the bed. What does the crazy couple (Vance and Amy) do? They start screaming at each other, the situation explodes into a huge fight, which ends with them making out lustily. Where have we seen the "argument turns to passion" scene before? How about everywhere.

The overly perfect couple (Rex and Leigh) deal with the problem in an obvious and overly perfect way: Rex literally looks over at a "how to be a perfect couple" book before quoting some tripe about how his girlfriend hogging the bed upsets him and makes him feel like she doesn't respect him. She replies back in kind, extolling her new found understanding and undying love for her communicative partner.

The average couple (Dave and Julia) do what average people do: be boring and unfunny.

Another cameo opportunity missed!
It's the sort of scene you might read in an 8th grade "write your own TV show" assignment... and the episode doesn't get any better. Almost all of the characters are as two dimensional as the Trix rabbit: Rex and Leigh are the textbook "we read counseling books and talk about our feelings" couple. Leigh (played by the delicious Olivia Munn) shows a bit of socially awkward straightforwardness and naivety, but not enough to make her stand out. Dave and Julia are supposed to the relateable couple, but they're about as interesting as a day at the Wonderbread factory and they make inane decisions about simple things that make them impossible to identify with. Vance is the only character with any hint of a third dimension (a strange obsession with his friends, especially Dave) but the fail yin-yang strikes as Amy is possibly the most unlikeable person in television history. The writer wants me to care whether they break-up or not... meanwhile I could care less if Jeffery Dhamer shows up and devours Amy whole.

The list of bad within the pilot is a long one: Olivia Munn's casting is awkward (she'd make a better crazy girlfriend than a devoted one), which is highlighted by the writing. Vance and Amy break up, but since this is the pilot and Amy is a wretched harpy, not only do you not care about it but it makes you start to dislike Vance... a character that only works if the audience likes him (think Home Improvement's Tim Taylor with all of the obnoxiousness and none of the likability, charm, or humor). Dave has to make an obvious choice that any other person on Earth would make, but since the correct choice would make him relateable to the audience, he does the opposite.

Looking at the pilot, it's easy to see why a show like Perfect Couples would be cancelled. But, as the series continues, something miraculous happens: they fire the writers responsible for the first episode! Just kidding... they do that after the second episode (I just realized that the writers were also the co-creators... ouch) What does happen is... the show steadily gets better. All of the characters gain a personality with some nuance... Leigh and Rex move past the cliche and continually build interesting personalities that were slightly hinted at in the pilot. Amy is pulled back from the cliff and becomes tolerable. Dave does logical things! Julia begins to exist! By episodes six and seven, it has actually become a halfway decent show. Episode eight is very funny! These have actually become characters that I'm somewhat interested in. Someone behind the scenes has identified the problem and is in the process of fixing it, but by this time, it's all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic: Perfect Couples is finished.

Under different circumstances, friends... Perfect Couples would still be with us. NBC needed a hit mid-season replacement for their brilliant "Night of Comedy" Thursday... all comedy, all the time! Who needs variety? Not this network! So they have this comedy with a crappy, cliche ridden pilot that only begins getting good several episodes in. Still not a death sentence... put it next to a semi-successful show that draws a very general audience and people may stick around long enough to appreciate it. So where do they put it? Next to Community, a quirky anti-sitcom that, while low rated, is a hit with critics and boasts a devoted fan base. Also, did I mention it airs opposite American Idol? The executives at NBC must have been drinking a lot of Guinness, because that idea was brilliant. Also, they're acting like they're drunk.

Thus we commit to the Earth Perfect Couples. While the series isn't officially cancelled, it will be soon... a needless death thanks entirely to NBC, and not without one final insult. The show is being replaced by... The Paul Reiser Show. Ouch.


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