In the Katherine Heigl-Josh Duhamel romantic comedy “Life as We Know It,” a couple dies and leaves custody of their child jointly to their respective best friends, who can’t stand each other. “Mad Love” dials that premise back several steps, to the meet-cute origins of a love affair (at the Empire State Building, no less) and mismatched friends thrown together by it. Tonally compatible with “How I Met Your Mother” — down to a walking, fast-talking id character, played by Tyler Labine — the show and its cast have potential, though there’s nothing in the pilot to be mad about.
A New York attorney, Ben (“American Pie’s” Jason Biggs) is just extricating himself from a go-nowhere relationship when he’s struck by the proverbial thunderbolt upon meeting Kate (“Scrubs'” Sarah Chalke), who admits to throwing herself into such things too quickly. Their arranged double-date with his buddy/co-worker Larry (Labine), who narrates the proceedings, and her nanny friend Connie (Judy Greer), instantly goes awry when the latter duo accidentally meet beforehand and are immediately at odds.
Of course, if Ben and Kate become a long-term item, that means Larry and Connie will be around each other a lot, too. Yet as the narration freely implies, can Larry and Connie blossom into a relationship of their own, if not as effortlessly and romantically as their pals? There’s the suspense, such as it is, in a half-hour that otherwise hews toward the comfortingly predictable.
Created by Matt Tarses (who produces along with his sister, Jamie), “Mad Love” offers the well-traveled Labine another vehicle as the equivalent of “Mother’s” Barney, getting all the best lines and put-downs — a guy with no pretense of finding Ms. Right, only Miss (Possibly Impaired) Right Now. “So you just kind of gave up and went with the bangs, huh?” he says dryly to Connie.
It’s pleasant enough, but has the potential to stand out only in the manner and pace at which Connie and Larry unspool, without the fairy-tale sparks enjoyed by Ben and Kate. There’s also a promising supporting player in Connie’s rich employer, Tiffany (Sarah Wright), who is horrified by the thought of watching her own children, without having Connie to do it for her.
CBS — which, thanks to Charlie Sheen’s antics, won’t have as many original “Two and a Half Men” episodes behind “Mad Love” — has certainly gotten considerable mileage out of “Mother,” which has kept dangling “Who’s mom?” clues for years, until it’s almost beside the point. That said, it’s hard to see what would bring Connie and Larry together short of Ben and Kate marrying, having a baby, abruptly dying in a tragic accident, and designating them as custodians.
Then again, maybe they’ll save all that for Season Two.