Pilot Review: MARRY ME Could Make It Work. Eventually.

David Caspe's follow-up to HAPPY ENDINGS may not be must-watch TV yet, but it could be. 

I've been curious about Marry Me since it was announced in February; it's the next brainchild of Happy Endings showrunner David Caspe, and Happy Endings is a show that took me far too long to watch and of which I'm now a huge fan. And co-stars Casey Wilson (from Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (from my heart) are two of the greatest comedic actors working in television today. Right off the bat, Marry Me felt like it had promise. 

And having seen the pilot, it still does! But I'm not convinced it's fulfilled that promise just yet. Of course, that's also true of the first few episodes of Happy Endings (and, to be fair, of many other shows). Happy Endings is initially about a woman who leaves a man at the altar, and the way their pals struggle to maintain the group friendship around that conflict. The conflict never felt strong enough to sustain a show, but fortunately it didn't have to - the ensemble cast was so incredible that the show quickly became about a group of friends who just love each other and happen to be hilarious (a premise around which many of the best sitcoms have been built). I'm hoping that will also be the case for Marry Me, but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. 

The pilot (which you can watch here) went live on Tuesday, and, like Happy Endings, has a strong cast that will hopefully overcome a weak concept. Wilson and Marino are indisputably hilarious and have great, adorable chemistry together, and the supporting cast is really good too. Tim Meadows and Scandal's Dan Bucatinsky play the married dads of Annie (Wilson), and the great JoBeth Williams is a prickly mom to Marino's Jake. There were too-quick glimpses from excellent funny people Rob Huebel, Leslie David Baker (Stanley from The Office) and Kimmy Robertson (Lucy from Twin Peaks!), and John Gemberling, Sarah Wright and Tymberlee Hill all bring the laughs as Annie and Jake's group of friends. 

So what's the weak concept? The opening scene of Marry Me set me a bit on edge, as Annie and Jake return from a trip to Mexico for their sixth anniversary, and Annie immediately tears into Jake for not proposing on the trip. She's ranting with her back turned to him (searching in her pantry for her Skinny Girl vodka, ugh), not seeing that he's on one knee, trying to propose. She rips apart their entire group of friends and his mom in the course of her completely insane monologue, and of course all of those very people are hiding in the apartment; they're ready to surprise Annie after Jake proposes and instead overhear her call them garbage people and, in the case of Jake's mom, a bitch. 

Of course my first thought is here: do we really need another televised example of a naggy woman desperate to get married and her sweet, hapless boyfriend feeling pressured to propose? There's a weird, added complication in that Casey Wilson is David Caspe's real-life wife of only a few months, and Annie is such a total nutcase - played to pitch perfection by Wilson - that it feels a bit icky to know that Caspe wrote her unhinged lines.

But as the episode wears on, it's clear that Annie's desperation is written with quite a bit of affection, and that does help. When she's later confiding in her friend Dennah (Wright, who's really great here), Annie says, "This is just like that time I was so excited to get a hamster that I pet it to death." So Annie turns into a bit of a Lennie Small in a relationship - who among us can say we haven't? I just wish Jake (the Caspe stand-in) weren't presented as being so close to perfect - he genially admits that he waited too long to propose, and forgives Annie easily after she gets him fired in yet another wacked out display of unmarried anxiety. When Annie admits to him, "I always, like, explode my life," he sweetly tells her that he needs her explosions to challenge him, but how is Jake challenging Annie? He's just too reasonable, too affable. 

Maybe there's a way to view this as forward thinking: there are enough shows out there about man children and their patient wives, and Annie's such a woman child herself - and god knows few people can play overgrown children as hilariously and effectively as Casey Wilson. I just wish her immaturity came across in a more interesting way than a woman trying to bag a proposal while searching for her Skinny Girl vodka. 

BUT I'm probably overthinking this network sitcom. Marry Me has a strong writer behind it and two of my favorite TV actors headlining it. While I don't love the premise of the pilot, I didn't love Happy Endings' either, and that show wormed its way into my heart in no time. If Marry Me ends up being "about" Annie and Jake and their lovable group of friends hanging out and being goofy, there's a strong chance it could become must-watch TV for me. I won't be reviewing it week-to-week, but I wanted to discuss the pilot with you guys, and to make sure that you Happy Endings fans were aware of its existence. Give it a watch and let me know what you think. It airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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