With HBO’s “Girls” on the horizon, the confused twentysomething is getting a bit of a workout, which is, from a media perspective, a classic bit of pandering. What better way to attract a desired demo than behaving as if their longings and fears are really important? Still, good is good, and MTV’s “I Just Want My Pants Back” is easily the channel’s best effort since plunging into the scripted business, a smart and funny look at a group adept at orchestrating hookups but with few genuine connections. Think “Jersey Shore,” only with much better writing.
Directed by Doug Liman and adapted by David J. Rosen from his own novel, the pilot (already previewed alongside last summer’s VMA Awards) centers on Jason (Peter Vack), who holds a menial job at a casting agency and yearns for bigger things. Still, his paramount concern in the opener centers on breaking a sexual dry spell, which he does, in spectacular and slightly kinky fashion, with an alluring girl (Kelli Barrett) who, yes, absconds with his pants.
Jason spends most of his time hanging out with best friend Tina (Kim Shaw), whose casual liaisons prompt the local bodega owner to refer to her, colorfully, as “whore friend of Jason.” Their circle also includes college sweethearts Eric (Jordan Carlos) and Stacey (Elisabeth Hower), who in an amusing later subplot are tempted by neighbors whose vigorous coupling prompts Stacey to say it “sounds like Guantanamo up there.”
And so it goes. Nothing much really happens, but Rosen has a sharp ear for clever, rapid-fire dialogue (Jason tells a slightly inebriated girl at a party, “I like your potentially clouded judgment”), and Liman rekindles the breezy atmosphere of “Swingers,” down to the grainy single-camera format, which features Brooklyn as a backdrop.
The lingering effect of Jason’s one-night stand figures in subsequent episodes (three were made available), but the show’s appeal is as much about little moments — and the well-cast core’s general lack of direction — as any serialized storyline.
Every generation needs its own “The Graduate,” and sadly, the current MTV crowd has glommed onto the “Jersey” gang. Still, if the lead-in from that unscripted hit helps give this show a running head start, it will actually have contributed something to TV. And after MTV’s uneven run with high concepts (see “Teen Wolf” and “The Hard Times of RJ Berger”), it’s encouraging to see “Pants’?” nondescript pattern trumped by its style.