Are there rules anymore for when TV shows can start airing? NBC seems to be doing its very best to subvert convention, usurping the ritual of fall/spring/summer schedules with surprise hiatuses, strange schedules, and a March premiere for Bent. It’s a disappointment too, because Bent could have made a solid impression if it was introduced somewhere other than in the void between traditional premieres. It’s nowhere near ready to go up aside NBC’s Thursday night killers, but Bent does round out as a charming, albeit implausible sitcom with enough staying power for a couple good seasons.
Since the above promotional photo, obviously poorly photoshopped together, doesn’t really do a great job of explaining the premise (and whose idea was it to put his mallet next to a girl’s head?), here’s the basic run-through for Bent. Amanda Peet plays Alex, a recently divorced woman who hires Pete (David Walton, the only guy in the above photo with a “tan”) to fix the kitchen in her newly-purchased home. Though with a slew of supporting characters such as Alex’s sister Screwsie (Margo Harshman) and Pete’s father Walt (Jeffrey Tambor), it’s fairly obvious from the get-go that this comedy doesn’t want to get pigeonholed into a single scenario. Even the title, Bent, seems more attuned to a show about something other than kitchen renovation.
Yet all the qualms we can conjure regarding Bent’s flimsy set-up and potential problems down the line can be put to rest once the characters begin interacting. Immediately it’s apparent that this isn’t some rapid-fire, five-jokes-a-minute sitcom like 30 Rock or Community try to be, instead Bent falls somewhere in the relational comedy realm with Up All Night. Peet and Walton are a duo that, let’s face it, is hard to see working on paper. But when they come together, bouncing comments off Alex’s daughter Charlie or Pete’s amusing crew of renovators, it’s hard to deny that the two have chemistry.
It’s this cast unification that will bring Bent to a wide audience with ease. Every interaction feels genuine, yet with enough tongue-in-cheek to allow for the comedic writing to do its job. There aren’t any major laughs, but in all reality they shouldn’t be expected in the first episode or two of any sitcom. The best comedy comes from realized and well-established characters, which the writers of Bent are clearly aware of. Already Pete is a delightful mockery of generic surfer dudes, unreliable and a bit crass but well-meaning. Each side character as well seems like a wild card of opportunities for various plots down the road.
Our recommendation for now is to give Bent a try. For a sitcom which seems so ill-fated by its description, it’s a major surprise that we can come out of two episodes believing the opposite. Its characters are unconventionally comfortable in their roles, and in general it seems like NBC is learning from the success of Fox’s New Girl that these comedies don’t need sustaining premises as long as the humor is true to life and the characters feel real. It’s certainly not at “WOW” status yet, but for a pilot episode and its follow-up, Bent is doing a great job so far.
Watch Bent at Hulu here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/342478/bent-pilot