'Groundhog Day'

Having struggled to gain a toehold with live-action comedy, Fox attempts to do the next best thing by enlisting the Farrelly brothers to help launch into its popular animation lineup a live-action half-hour with all the attributes of a cartoon.

Having struggled to gain a toehold with live-action comedy, Fox attempts to do the next best thing by enlisting the Farrelly brothers to help launch into its popular animation lineup a live-action half-hour with all the attributes of a cartoon. An amorous orangutan makes the most indelible impression in the opening installment, but “Unhitched” is pretty dumb and uninspired even by the standards of lower primates, for whom the show is clearly intended. Frankly, it’s the kind of lame sitcom that gives scripted programming a bad name.

Originally titled “The Rules of Starting Over,” the show itself actually starts somewhere in the middle. The focus is on four friends (with a three-to-one “Seinfeld”-style gender mix, although the resemblance ends there) recovering from divorces and simultaneously hitting the dating circuit.

In typical Farrelly fashion, the jokes are broadly aimed and then some: Jack (Craig Bierko) dates a primate expert with an ape roommate; Dr. Freddy (Shaun Majumder) falls head over heels for a paid escort; Tommy (Johnny Sneed) hits on an underage girl; and Kate (Rashida Jones) struggles with dating a guy shorter than she is — a concern he augments, unwittingly, by taking her to a basketball game.

Bierko (“Boston Legal”) and Jones (“The Office”) both have the distinction of parachuting from clever, well-written shows into this one, which certainly represents a step back down the evolutionary ladder.

There’s nothing wrong in theory with a big, dumb comedies, and “Unhitched” almost inadvertently stumbles across something mildly funny once or twice (Tommy’s encounter with a sex addict, for example, in a subsequent episode) thanks to the relentlessness of that tone. Still, the show feels completely derivative, it’s wholly unconvincing that the central quartet would hang out together, and I’m frankly still fuzzy (mostly because after 10 minutes it’s difficult to give a damn) on what connects them beyond the not-that-jarring status of being single again in their 30s and, well, “Seinfeld” did it.

Although Fox’s promotion bills the show as “outrageous,” the Farrellys also seem oddly shackled compared with even their lesser bigscreen endeavors — enough to make one pine for the genuinely poor taste of “Shallow Hal” or “Me, Myself & Irene.”

Granted, the network can’t rely on animation to carry its comedy standard forever, but with its live-action efforts proving so consistently one-dimensional, maybe it’s time for a trip back to the drawing board.

Unhitched

Fox, Sun. March 2, 9:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Conundrum Entertainment and Watson Pond Prods. in association 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Bradley Thomas, Brad Johnson, Mike Sikowitz; co-executive producers, Chris Pappas, Michael Bernier, Matt Silverstein, David Jeser, Kristin Newman; producers, Kevin Barnett, Katy McCaffrey, Randy Cordray; directors, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly; writers, Pappas, Bernier, Kevin Barnett.

Crew

Camera, Matt Leonetti; production designer, Arlan Jay Vetter; editors, Brent Carpenter, Andrea Folprecht, Larry Madaras; music, John Nordstrom; casting, Nikki Valco, Ken Miller. RUNNING TIME: 30 MIN.

Cast

Jack "Gator" Gately - Craig Bierko Kate - Rashida Jones Tommy - Johnny Sneed Dr. Freddy Sahgal - Shaun Majumder
Related links: Pushy Questions for Craig Bierko
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