TV Preview

No Way Around It: 'Loop' Isn't Funny

By Chip Crews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Wouldn't it be funny if --"

Ask yourself how many sentences begin with those words -- and end with a ludicrous idea -- when creative TV minds get together. Now ask yourself how many misbegotten series get foisted on the public as a result.

"The Loop," the latest product of that kind of bankrupt thinking, premieres tonight at 9:30 on Channel 5. The show is particularly misbegotten and -- fatal for a comedy -- not funny at all. (Fox will air a second episode of this trifle tomorrow night at 8:30, which thenceforth will be its time slot. Tonight's episode follows "American Idol's" 30-minute results show; the network clearly wants "The Loop" to begin life with the largest possible audience.)

The series tells the story of Sam (Bret Harrison), a 24-year-old executive at a fictional Chicago-based airline. By day, he's a corporate prodigy and the boss's pet, but when evening comes -- hoo-wee! -- he races home for another evening of jolly binge-drinking with his three idiot roommates.

It would be a shame to waste an original thought on this absurd premise, and creators Pam Brady and Will Gluck couldn't be called wasteful. Their characters are uniformly implausible: Airline boss Russ (Philip Baker Hall) is a coarse, sitcommy blowhard, as well as a dope. Sam's secretary, Darcy (Joy Osmanski), is bitter because she graduated fourth in her class at MIT but couldn't get a better job than this. And Meryl (Mimi Rogers), a middle-aged company vice president, spends her days channeling her sexual aggression in Sam's direction. ("Hey, you're good at math. Wanna see how many times 24 goes into 48?")

On the home front, there's Sully (Eric Christian Olsen), Sam's older brother and a complete dunce who changes jobs almost daily; Lizzy (Sarah Mason), a dippy blond bartender; and Piper (Amanda Loncar), a medical student who is somehow oblivious to the fact that for years, her old pal Sam has been pining for her. She's so dense that it's hard to understand what Sam or anybody else could see in her.

The premiere centers on Piper's upcoming birthday, and could Sam please be a love and come up with a flight voucher so her long-distance boyfriend can come help her celebrate? In addition, everybody at work is charged with thinking up ideas for cutting airline costs. And to top it all off, Sam discovers at the office that a large patch of his head got shaved overnight. He calls Sully to complain.

"You know the rules, man -- you pass out on the living room floor, you get the clippity-clips," Sully crows. Later, as Sam heads off to a meeting wearing a pirate hat that covers the shaved spot, big brother phones to boast that he's just eaten a light bulb.

Sully's the kind of character who gives stupidity a bad name.

On tomorrow night's show, a sexy houseguest named Jenna -- an executive at a tequila company -- complicates Sam's life by continually luring him away from a big work project so he can swill shots until he blacks out. When the two awaken on a Mexican beach with a couple of donkeys moseying nearby, she has to tell him how he got there.

And still he saves the day when he gets back to Chicago.

Through this whole silly waste of a half-hour, there isn't a lifelike gesture, line or situation. That isn't a crime, of course, but to be so unfunny in the process really is -- or at least it ought to be.

The Loop (30 minutes) airs tonight at 9:30 and tomorrow night at 8:30 on Channel 5.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company