“Married” is a familiar idea presented in a cheerfully amusing way — namely, the quiet scream of a middle-aged guy with kids, grappling with the realization that hot sex is disappearing into the rearview mirror, and his wife mostly just tolerates him. Its FX companion, “You’re the Worst,” is equally recognizable: a dysfunctional love story between two awful, self-absorbed people, who just might be perfect for each other. If there’s nothing new here (and indeed, another show premiering the same night, USA’s “Satisfaction,” offers a variation on “Married’s” theme), both are still mildly enjoyable. Call them the comedy equivalent of bunt singles.
In “Married,” Russ (Nat Faxon, fresh off “Ben & Kate’s” short-lived run) is the frustrated husband — so much so that he masturbates in bed next to his dozing wife Lina (Judy Greer) after she rebuffs his advances. Tired of being prodded to put out, in the premiere she suggests he go find some other sort of release outside their marriage, which he takes as an invitation to cheat.
The opportunity arises sooner than expected (and in a temptingly attractive package), but the road to Nirvana, not surprisingly, is paved with snafus and misunderstandings, starting with Russ’ misguided decision to confide in his friend Bernie (“The Daily Show’s” Jon Hodgman), later asking him if he can borrow a few hundred bucks.
Created by Andrew Gurland, “Married’s” opener actually mirrors what became a protracted plotline on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but it’s an appropriate way of introducing Russ as a guy with bad intentions, if not the will — given his commitment to his wife and kids — to act on them.
Mostly, it’s the age-old fear of married guys that someone is having a lot more fun (and sex) than they are. Faxon sells all of that — as well as a nagging concern, in subsequent episodes, about money issues — but this kind of series still requires a deft touch, even with the expanded license FX offers to explore sexual situations more frankly than in the broadcast realm.
It’s to Greer’s credit, moreover, that she manages to make Lina more fleshed out than just a tiresome scold, since this portrait of “Married” life tilts heavily toward Russ’ perspective.
The couple is surrounded by an assortment of wacky friends, naturally, including Jenny Slate (fresh off “Obvious Child”), who’s married to a much-older guy (played in later episodes by Paul Reiser); and the divorced, well-to-do A.J. (Brett Gelman), who in one episode drowns his sorrows by hiring a pair of prostitutes and inviting Russ over.
“You’re the Worst” would be the “before” to “Married’s” “after,” focusing on struggling writer Jimmy (Chris Geere) and harried publicist Gretchen (Aya Cash), who meet at a wedding, instantly can’t stand each other and, of course, immediately fall into bed together.
The sex is great — the people, not so much. But the two find themselves drawn to each other, even as they keep insisting relationships are for saps.
Heavily leaning on Los Angeles as a backdrop, the show mimics an indie-film sensibility, with each of the leads conveying just enough vulnerability to offset their odious ways, although it’s not clear that’s enough — especially with the duo essentially being the entire show. (His roommate, her friend and the kid neighbor all feel more like devices than characters.)
Neither “Married” nor “You’re the Worst” are a bad way to spend a half-hour, representing as they do different, darker sides of the love-and-marriage coin. That said, the jury is out on whether the producers have what it takes to make these summer flings worthy of longer-term commitments.