Mad Love, “Fireworks” (1.01)


Kate (Sarah Chalke) stands on the Empire State Building balcony, holding a red phone.

This midseason, The Signal is trying to review plenty of the new pilots as they come out. A review of the Mad Love pilot, written by Matt Tarses and directed by Pamela Fryman, after the jump…

“Do you believe in fairytales?” – Larry Munsch

Mad Love shares a lot of similarities with How I Met Your Mother. It’s a CBS sitcom that deals with a handful of young New Yorkers dealing with issues of love in their daily lives. It’s even directed by Pamela Fryman, How I Met Your Mother‘s primary director. And, much like the pilot of How I Met Your Mother, it’s not exactly going to enter the pantheon of great sitcom pilots. If it distinguishes itself from that show in any way, it’s that Mad Love is less funny, less adventurous, and more wasteful of the considerable talent it’s pooled in its Core Four.

That’s not to say I didn’t laugh during this pilot. I laughed quite a bit. However, it was the kinds of laughs where I roll my eyes at myself. Remember, I laughed plenty at Do Not Disturb and Big Day, neither of which are heralded as comedy greats, and in fact relied on a great amount of talent onscreen, just like Mad Love. Tyler Labine and Judy Greer are able to wring laughs out of lines that don’t really earn it. In fact, though Labine is playing the exact same character he’s played since he got his big break with Reaper, that character’s still pretty funny. Even Jason Biggs and Sarah Chalke, saddled with two bland sacks for characters, earned the occasional smile. But the humour isn’t where Mad Love really falls down. It’s story.

With How I Met Your Mother, the Ted and Robin story was pretty similar to the Ben/Kate story here, with one key difference: the ending, ruling Robin out as the titular mother, opened the story up to years’ worth of narrative. With Mad Love, we’re either looking at episodes upon episodes of relationship issues between Ben and Kate, a thousand breakups-and-reunions, or a radical shift in premise. The story between the two supporting characters has a bit more legs, in that they have their distaste for one another to get over before they can fall in love (as is deeply implied as inevitable here), but even then, there’s little chance these two will be half as enjoyable together as Lily and Marshall. I honestly can’t see the engine of this show fueling six years’ worth of stories; between that and the boring characters, I’m afraid to see them try.


How I Met Your Mother‘s pilot mostly got by on charm and potential, and it grew to become one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, for a few years at least. And one of the great things about television is that characters can grow beyond the stereotypes presented in a pilot. I’ve known plenty of shows that took their time figuring out what made them worth watching, and when they found it, it was beautiful. So Mad Love may be a dud now, but there’s potential in it.

I doubt I’ll be following along with it this season, but should it get a second season, I might rewind and give the first season a watch. For now, though, I think I’ll take a pass.


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