Tossed out as summer filler, it’s interesting that “Undateable” was birthed during the same development season as “About a Boy,” suggesting NBC was particularly enamored with adult versions of Peter Pan this year — men who, through their libertine ways, steadfastly refuse to grow up. Yet instead of mentoring a young boy, the protagonist here takes in a buttoned-up roommate and his motley crew of friends, ostensibly to create tension between the wide-eyed believer in true romance and the guy who considers cooking breakfast too much of a commitment. Sporadically funny, this Bill Lawrence production is unpretentious, but ultimately tedious.
The modest twist, such as it is, is that the series follows a semi-serialized story as its sort-of spine, in which bar owner Justin (comic Brett Morin, in his first role) has an unspoken but very obvious crush on his alluring bartender (“Ground Floor’s” Briga Heelan), which he expresses childishly — for instance, by repeatedly pretending to bump into her as they cross the room.
His new roommate, meanwhile, Danny (Chris D’Elia, late of “Whitney,” and generally the best thing in the bad sitcoms he’s been in), has sort of run out of friends as they gradually pair off and settle down; still, he steadfastly refuses to change his ways, and takes it upon himself to provide lothario guidance to Justin, who he somewhat obnoxiously refers to as “Baby Bird.”
Justin’s trio of nerdy friends (Ron Funches, Rick Glassman, David Fynn) and Danny’s divorced, desperate-for-a-date sister (Bianca Kajlich) round out the company, giving rise to all manner of silliness. Yet Justin’s quest to woo the bartender at least offers the show a touch of cohesion, though it doesn’t provide her with much of an arc, other than being the object (understandably) of his attention.
The friends are an obvious device, but a decidedly well-worn one, and it’s not like there’s a shortage of socially awkward dweebs running around TV, many of them with actual characters in more fully fleshed out programs.
Mostly, the show functions best, when it functions at all, as a vehicle for D’Elia, who, like “Boy’s” David Walton, appears to be one of those actors NBC – and indeed, the extended sitcom world – is convinced will break out if afforded enough opportunities.
They might very well be right, but “Undateable’s” at-best intermittent charms — dumped, without much ceremony, with back-to-back episodes post-Memorial Day — don’t seem like the most hospitable environment to forge such a love connection.