Each pilot season delivers at least one real head-scratcher of the "How did that get on?" variety, and "Happy Hour" is certainly it -- a witless comedy throwback that can't be easily described in high- (or low-) concept terms. Painfully familiar and virtually laugh-free, the series has one character with potential, but beyond that, it's hard to imagine Fox won't be yelling "last call" relatively soon.
Each pilot season delivers at least one real head-scratcher of the “How did that get on?” variety, and “Happy Hour” is certainly it — a witless comedy throwback that can’t be easily described in high- (or low-) concept terms. Painfully familiar and virtually laugh-free, the series has one character with potential, but beyond that, it’s hard to imagine Fox won’t be yelling “last call” relatively soon.John Sloan plays Henry, an amiable twentysomething schlub who gets dumped by his beautiful g.f. and is determined to stay near her. So he takes up residence with big, fun-loving lug of a guy Larry (Lex Medlin), whose roommate Brad (Nat Faxon) has just gotten married. Henry is thus dubbed “the new Brad,” as Larry serves martinis every afternoon as he lip-syncs “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” — explaining the title, which refers to the last free-wheeling times Henry will theoretically enjoy before settling down and making commitments. The wacky cast of characters also includes Beth Lacke as Larry’s femme pal, Amanda, who breathes a sexy gust of fresh air and steady supply of cleavage into the proceedings — though hardly enough of either to wring the musty, been-there smell out of the overall execution. Granted, there’s been no shortage of mismatched odd couples in sitcom history, with a devil-may-care bachelor/divorcee/foreigner/alien/furry alien dragging a buttoned-up chum along on various adventures. Unfortunately, no one here beyond Lacke registers as good company for a night of bar-hopping, much less an ongoing weekly TV relationship. As for the writing, it simultaneously peaks and valleys when Amanda tells Henry, who is wearing shorts, “I can see your balls.” Word is the series tested well, which suggests the focus groups in question might have engaged in a little happy houring themselves. And while the show is broad on the order of the early live-action comedies (relatively few they might be) that gained a toehold on Fox, that simpleminded formula feels incongruous with the animation and dramas that have become the net’s foundation. Paired with another new sitcom, “‘Til Death,” “Happy Hour” could and should be the beneficiary of low rating expectations as Fox wades into a Thursday night dominated by others. Barring a shocking turnaround, however, consider this simply a placeholder until “American Idol” and other midseason reinforcements arrive, at which point it’ll be “Goodbye, Larry.”