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NBC's 'Bent' Has Potential
March 22, 2012  | By Theresa Corigliano
 

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Bent is a situation comedy in the truest sense of the word. If John McCain was "maverick-y" back in 2008, this one is "situation-y."

The "sit" part of this Wednesday premiere (9 and 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC): Newly divorced Alex (the lovely and very talented Amanda Peet) is starting over, leaving behind a jailbird husband and downsizing her life and house. She has hired a rapscallion of a contractor to redo her kitchen. I don't get to say "rapscallion" very often, but it's a pretty good word to describe Pete (David Walton), a talented surfer dude with a hammer and weaknesses for gambling and sleeping with his clients. Luckily, we also get to meet Pete's roomie, his unemployed actor father, played with delicious self-absorption and perfect timing by the terrific Jeffrey Tambor.

We can only assume that lawyer Alex hires Pete because he's a particularly cute and winsome rapscallion (and he definitely seems to think so). If he weren't so cute and winsome, the word to describe him might be something like -- hound.

To further anchor the situation, throw in Alex's wise beyond her years 10-year-old daughter (Joey King), and her new doctor boyfriend (Matt Letscher), whom she's not sure should be, and her unfortunately but accurately named wild-child sister, Screwsie (Margo Harshman). Speaking of names, I had no idea why this show is titled Bent, and had to ask NBC's publicity department. Turns out it's a call back to a line in the pilot where the characters are said to be "bent and not broken." Oh.

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Pete's motley crew (I was going to say work crew, but they don't do a lot of that) are also by-the-numbers. We get the African American guy, the Russian guy, and the dumb guy with a heart of gold, all played very well by J.B. Smoove, Pasha Lychnikoff and Jesse Plemons.

The comedy part: It's all about the patter. The jokes are often funny and well-delivered, but relentless. The rapid fire one-liners rarely stop for a moment of actual human interaction. When a "moment" happens, the show skids to a stop for that nanosecond. Then it's back to the jokes. And then there's the sex talk -- there's a lot of it, slick and raunchy and the current fallback position in comedies. There's potential for Bent to be better, given the capabilities of the cast, so it's a little disappointing that the writers go there, a lot.. At some point, the characters will have to find something else to talk about and think about and, well, do.

Assuming the one truth in Bent is that a contractor like Pete can be in Alex's house for years (remember Eldin, Murphy Brown's painter?), the premise is not a stretch. But the question is whether viewers are going to be turned off or turned on by the pat-ness and the patter. Bent is lightweight, which in this case, depending how the viewers take it, will either be a good thing or a bad thing for NBC.

 
 
 
 
 
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