CBS premieres promising sitcom 'Mad Love'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 4:22 PM

It's a challenge to watch the new CBS sitcom "Mad Love" and not compare the series to the show that airs right before it, the popular Monday night comedy "How I Met Your Mother."

Similar in tone, rife with one-liners and finding humor in the non-problems of attractive, striving New Yorkers and their relationships, the two half-hour comedies tell a complex love story with a narrator.

This is where "Mad Love," which makes a promising debut Monday night, smartly deviates from its lead-in. Instead of making the narrator the hero (as in "Mother," in which the lead character tells the tale of how he met his wife), "Mad Love" grants narration responsibility to the guy who, in most shows, would maintain only wacky-sidekick status.

That would be Larry (Tyler Labine), the sloppy, lazy guy who makes crude jokes, ogles women way out of his league and, at day's end, just wants to hang at the bar and drink copiously with his best pal, Ben.

"Do you believe in fairy tales?" Larry booms at the beginning of the show. "Yeah, me neither. But this one's going to be a little different. Because I'm telling it."

Larry is tasked with telling the love story of Ben (Jason Biggs), the handsome, well-groomed lawyer who meets the beautiful, scatterbrained Kate (Sarah Chalke) at the top of the Empire State Building after he loses his cellphone and she misplaces her hat.

Everything's going swell until Ben and Kate decide to meet up at a bar with their two best friends. When they arrive, they realize that their pals, Larry and Connie, have unfortunately already met, thanks to a Larry pickup line gone awry:

Larry: "Do I know you? You look familiar."

Connie: "You look kind of familiar, too, but that could be because I used to go to a lot of pedophile conventions."

Larry: "Man, I always thought it was cool when I saw women at those."

Connie is played by Judy Greer, a pro at comic timing who's often relegated to "goofy co-worker" or "unlucky-in-love friend" but here is center stage as cheery Kate's grounded, cynical best friend.

Refreshingly, the show refrains from making Ben and Kate's blossoming relationship Story A, with Larry and Connie's spiteful banter as Story B. The series blends them together to create a genuinely funny balance. This is fortunate, given that budding couple Ben and Kate seem a little less interesting than dysfunctional twosome Larry and Connie.

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