Once you get past the gimmick – a bunch of singles in a bar, as played out over one wacky night – “Mixology” quickly establishes itself as an inordinately appealing comedy, blessed with quick wit and a promising array of characters. Quickly expanding beyond its potentially claustrophobic premise with deft use of flashbacks, it’s the kind of series that might not be built for the long haul, but which almost instantly emerges as disarmingly fresh and funny. ABC’s struggles to launch new sitcoms notwithstanding, “Mixology” at least serves up the main ingredient anybody could want from a half-hour comedy.
Created by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“The Hangover”), and improbably hailing from Ryan Seacrest’s production shingle, the whole show takes place in the same bar, as different characters seek to forge love connections — or at least, get laid. In the premiere, the focus is on Tom (Blake Lee), newly broken up from his girlfriend, who appears over his head hitting on the man-eating Maya (Ginger Gonzaga); and the awkward breakup between waitress Kacey (Vanessa Lengies) and bartender Dominic (Adan Canto), who seems fine with her decision to end things, mostly because he can’t remember her name anyway.
Along the way, other characters migrate in and out, such as narrator/dating Yoda Bruce (Andrew Santino), who dispenses bar-etiquette wisdom like, “The higher the heels, the looser she feels.” Or there’s Jessica (Alexis Carra), a single mom a few years older than most of the patrons, who walks in and deadpans, “I feel like Helen Mirren.”
Although the central conceit might appear confining — and not exactly built for a 100-episode run — it’s pretty clear from the outset that “Mixology” has the characters’ entire lives and romantic histories upon which to draw, while veering into pop-culture references like debating the merits of “Sex and the City” or (in the second episode) dissing the entire CBS comedy lineup.
Of course, maintaining this sort of rat-a-rat patter is no small feat, but the series gets off to such a promising start as to bode well for future installments. Moreover, the shifting pairings from episode to episode create a semi-serialized element that deftly builds off the groundwork laid the previous week, conjuring questions about who’s going to wind up with whom.
Although the setting feels slightly askew of its “Modern Family” lead-in, this is easily one of the best sitcoms ABC has given the benefit of that plum launching pad.
At times, ABC has been guilty of being too precious in its reliance on single-camera comedies, particularly those that win a small cadre of media admirers but feel too narrow. Whether this show turns into a longterm relationship or just the makings of a prolonged one-night stand, based on first, second and third impressions, it’s quite easy to develop a serious crush on “Mixology.”