Both loopy and virtually laugh-free, “The Loop” has been significantly revised but not much improved since Fox ordered it last spring, apparently hoping that high energy and a stunningly attractive cast can obscure its shortcomings. The show basically approximates that commercial where a young guy is working an office job and his dorky friends keep bugging him, as a generic twentysomething dude seeks to prove he can straddle adult obligations and youthful pastimes by partying all night and working all day. Sorry, but been there, drank that.
Little in this Chicago-set series (hence the name) feels fresh, including the protagonist’s long-standing crush on his gorgeous roommate, his slacker brother and a climactic moment that actually repeats in the two half-hours previewed. In each episode, Sam (Bret Harrison) insists he must get some sleep before going on a drunken bender, and then has to impress his crusty boss (Philip Baker Hall) while making up an idea on the fly.
“Fly” is the operative word, since Sam is the youngest exec at a major airline, where his over-the-top co-workers include the aforementioned CEO, a frustrated MIT grad functioning as his assistant (Joy Osmanski) and a predatory female colleague, Meryl (Mimi Rogers), who keeps coming on to him. Actually, if Sam were a normal guy instead of a sitcom one, he’d jump Meryl on the nearest desk between the opening credits and first commercial break.
Ah, but Sam only has eyes for Piper (Amanda Loncar), who is tethered to a long-distance boyfriend. Sam and Piper live with Sam’s older brother (Eric Christian Olsen) and a fourth roommate, Lizzy (Sarah Mason), a bartender who looks like she just stumbled in out of a beer commercial.
Hall yields a few absurd moments with his cantankerous ramblings, enthusing about crushing his employees’ spirits and throwing a fit whenever Sam receives personal calls. Olsen, meanwhile, is just the latest half-baked Peter Pan leading a buddy (or here, younger sibling) astray, though the role seems to have been downplayed since its earlier incarnation.
Foremost, “The Loop” feels like a pallid alter ego of Fox’s much more promising “Free Ride,” which bowed earlier this month. Even the visual gimmickry, which includes little onscreen flashcards saying things like “So into her,” has all the flavor of airline peanuts.
Of course, Fox is launching “The Loop” after “American Idol,” meaning plenty of folks in the right demos will be delivered to its gates before the show takes up residence Thursdays. Yet despite that connection, it’s going to require considerable good fortune, and perhaps a new flight plan, to keep this bird airborne.