It’s getting to the point where it becomes difficult for television critics to partake of one of their favorite endeavors – championing the lesser-knowns. Unless it’s on cable, if you don’t already know about it, it’s probably gone anyway. About the closest we get these days comes by way of cases like Gary Unmarried. Already in its second season, the show is doing pretty well, but it hasn’t quite got everyone talking. That’s about as good as it gets for a critics longing to share the undiscovered.
The first season DVD hits tomorrow, Feb. 9, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Whether you’re already a fan, or might be looking to catch up on a great show, this is a must own.
Gary (Jay Mohr) is recently divorced, and trying to find his footing in the world again. He has two kids, so he isn’t going to be rid of ex-wife Allison (Paula Marshall) any time soon. Theirs is a hate/hate relationship, though its a fairly good-natured hate. But, when Gary tries to pose the idea of dating someone new (something they’ve agreed to hold off for a while for the sake of the kids), he discovers that she’s already engaged… to their marriage counselor!
The show runs through a wide variety of the problem areas divorced parents have to face – who gets Thanksgiving dinner at their house, who gets to be around for which childhood milestone, who gets the saucy pictures, etc. – and it does so while creating a perfect mix of tackling a genuine struggle and comedy. While this is perhaps to describe the general formula of all sitcoms, there is something a bit more real (and funnier) about the approach to situations you find in Gary Unmarried. Now, that’s not to say that the entire play of what happens in the first season Thanksgiving episode conveys a great resemblance to something that really happened somewhere, but it’s very real for these characters, and is (maybe) metaphorically very real.
Leading us through it all is the under-appreciated sense of comedy Jay Mohr brings to the table whatever he’s in. He’s not the sort of guy that will generally have you falling out of your chair laughing, but he delivers a clever comedy that is hopelessly entertaining. His character suits him wonderfully. Making just enough money with his own painting business to make sure his wife has some great stuff at his old house, he eats off paper plates in frisbees, because he can’t bring himself to rebuy all the great stuff he already has… in his old house. Generally a fun-spirited everyman, he isn’t sure what to do with himself now, and the combination of not particularly caring about much and getting really frustrated anyway drives a lot of the laughs.
The DVD release also includes a number of interesting special features, and it amounts to more than you’d be inclined to expect from such a release.
Tuesday On The Set With Jay is exactly what you think, a featurette of simply following Jay around for a day. This kind of bonus is becoming more common, and usually I could take them or leave them, but this one is pretty good. To the general public, a day on set is probably of dubious interest as a rule, but when it’s Jay Mohr, there’s something worth watching for everyone. Shooting a show is a stranger creature than most probably imagine, and while most actors don’t do the greatest job of making the trip that interesting, this one is rather fun.
The Chemistry of Comedy is simply a behind-the-scenes look at the show which is billed as an “All-Access Tour.” It’s worth watching for fans, but it’s a pretty standard feature. It does give you a sense of the fun and friendship behind-the-scenes of pretty grueling workdays.
Planet Begley is a unique and odd little bonus that gives us a first-hand account of Ed Begley Jr. “greening” the show.
Finally, there’s a blooper reel that’s far better than average.