True quirkiness is a fragile commodity, which explains why this NBC comedy (at one point blessed with the better title “Crazy for You”) doesn’t quite hold together, especially under the weight of the network’s needs and expectations. The premiere comes at a significant moment for NBC: With just three sitcoms surviving the fall, the network could certainly use a commitment from viewers. That’s a tall order, however, for a show that feels more than anything like an exercise in quirky for quirkiness’ sake. Despite a few laughs, the series is too self-conscious about being off-kilter.
Although the idea of two bizarre folks finding each other is hardly new, the featured characters here would be relegated to the sidelines in most sitcoms — a jolt of comic relief, perhaps, but not the kind of personalities around which a series is normally constructed. It’s a nifty idea but, based on the three episodes previewed, difficult to sustain.
Nate (Josh Cooke) and Marni (Jennifer Finnigan) are introduced by way of blind dates that make painfully apparent why both are still available. He’s an obsessive genius, prone to various compulsions and phobias, who has taken refuge from ambition by working in a record store. She’s a buoyant ditz who cheerily tells not-especially-funny stories about her weird uncle and lives with a dying clown (Tom Poston, in a near-silent role) who occupies her walk-in closet.
They meet by accident, of course, and bond in a brisk 22 minutes or so, which is only the beginning. Because if these two wacky (literally) kids can’t make it together, well who can?
Beyond Poston’s presence — an over-the-top idea that the former “Newhart” co-star invests with laconic world-weariness — Marni has a nanny neighbor (Tammy Lynn Michaels) with an attitude problem. As for Nate, his buddy Bowie (Darius McCrary) is a pretty funny African-American guy; the only problem is it’s hard to imagine the two becoming friends in the first place, as if Bowie is visiting from another show.
Producing partners DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler have a well-traveled comedy resume, but everything about “Committed” screams “trying too hard,” lacking the effortlessness necessary to make this sporadically clever house of cards withstand a stiff breeze.
Both Cooke and Finnigan are fresh faces, and there is a nice streak of political incorrectness, including his testy relationship with her wheelchair-bound friend. In the main, though, the fanciful overall tone lacks the spark that demands return viewing.
That’s a key criticism at this point, since NBC has so little comedy on its lineup to help launch such a concept — one that will likely require patience (and more than a little luck) to take root. So while “Committed” isn’t bad, it’s hard to escape the sense that thrust into the real world, it will wind up wild, crazy and very much alone like its protagonists.