Is it possible to date someone within your own circle of friends without everyone else getting impacted by the newly established relationship? That's part of the premise by the winter premiere of TV Land's show "The Exes," which had one unique group of friends who shared way too much with each other.
"The Exes" followed the unique friendship between four people who seemed to have little in common, except for their failed attempts at maintaining a successful relationship. Holly (Kristen Johnston) is a successful divorce attorney who had never been married. She has dated the occasional man, but the relationships never tended to last or end well. Her strongest relationship with three of her former clients who she allowed to all rent an apartment that she owned. On paper, the three divorced men seemed to have nothing in common, but they still managed to make their living arrangement work. Stuart (David Alan Basche) was a man who sometimes allowed his overly optimistic approach to life get him into questionable situations where he didn't think about his actions before he jumped into things. His roommates were resident playboy Phil (Donald Faison) who might be changing his ways for a new woman in his personal life, and the ultimate homebody in Haskell (Wayne Knight). The group also had to contend with the arrival of Stuart's sister (guest star Leah Remini) who turned to her brother for help in sorting out details from her marital problems. Her personality appeared to be the exact opposite of the usually mild mannered Stuart, but there could be more to the story than meets the eye. Another surprising turn of events came from the surprising revelation that Phil was secretly dating Holly's assistant Eden (Kelly Stables) and the fallout of going public with their new love affair. Will Phil and Eden's relationship last or will he go back to his playboy ways?
In terms of questions, the show's new crop of episodes has only managed to pose a few big ones that involved Remini's arrival and Phil and Eden's relationship being revealed mostly as the cast tried to gear the story around their storyline. The first few new episodes managed to adjust to the unexpected reveal by incorporating some new gags as Faison's Phil and Stables' Eden learned to be in a serious relationship. One episode had Eden telling a secret about Phil in an effort to test whether her friends could be trusted, or if they will take the bait to prove her right. The joke was that the situation turned into a huge misunderstanding and the reveal that Eden lived in the smallest micro-apartment in television history. Remini's appearance could be a chance to give the show a stronger dynamic as the character appeared to challenge everyone in the cast in early previews of her first episode airing on January 1st. Hopefully, she will have the chance to return again if her initial appearance is successful. Sadly, the show could use some work in developing Johnston and Basche's characters into being a combination of stereotypes and neurotic behavior. Johnston's Holly has become the embodiment of the neurotic single girl who can't seem to hide her desperation when she chooses suitors. Basche's Stuart suffered from a similiar problem, but his character was designed to be a modern day Felix Unger to the point where it was no longer endearing at times. Basche's character only seemed to work best when he somehow managed to make fun of Stuart's overly perfectionist nature and played up the comedy to full tilt. Maybe, the show could one day pair Johnston and Basche's characters if the time was ever right. Only time will tell if that will ever be the case.
As for breakout performances, Faison and Stables led the pack as their characters were launched into a new relationship full of misunderstandings and sparkling chemistry. Faison's Phil was usually designed to be the life of the party as he kept his emotions in check for reasons only known to that character. His most memorable scene came when in the winter premiere as he started to realization that he might not be the perfect boyfriend that he thought he was. Faison's face generated Phil's anxiety and utter panic when he thought that he wasn't able to fully satisfy Eden's needs in the bedroom. He also had a hilarious misunderstanding involving Eden's Christmas gift that led to another mistake that he had to work hard to fix. Hopefully, the show will continue to give Faison the chance to shake up his character's usually unshakable image at least for a little while. He had a genuine chemistry with Stables that allowed for some moments of comedic levity without going too over the top in sentiment or humor. Stables, on the other hand, had the chance to portray Eden as more than a mere party girl who wanted to be loved just as much as any other girl. She was allowed to showcase Eden's vulnerability in the premiere as she explained to the gang why she revealed a relationship secret and that she needed some privacy in order to be truly happy. Ultimately, it will be unlikely for the gang to stay out of Phil and Eden's way, but it should be interesting to see them try in various ways that will blow up in their faces.
"The Exes" premiered on December 11th and airs on Wednesdays at 10:30 pm on TV Land.
Verdict: Despite some early issues, the show has managed to iron out some of the kinks and the cast developed a strong rapport as they were launched into separate stories.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)