The Ex Files

The current status of TV Land is really strange and interesting. After Hot in Cleveland became such an unexpected hit, they've settled into a formula that works for them: Take one part established sitcom actors from beloved old show, mix with comedy broader than the side of the Titanic, and serve. Hot in Cleveland was soon joined by Retired at 35 and Happily Divorced, neither of which I was wild about. But one evening last week, I was hanging out on my couch with a gentleman caller, and we were looking for something to watch on Netflix. He mentioned that he had caught a couple of episodes of another TV Land show called The Exes, so we watched a couple more. It was as silly as I expected, but I was shocked to discover that it got a few genuine chuckles out of me. By the end of the week, I had gone in and watched the entire first season.

Like I said, it wouldn't be a TV Land show without some established sitcom actors, and this one stars Wayne Knight, Kristen Johnston, and Donald Faison. The thankless straight-man role is played by David Alan Basche, who I haven't really heard of. Mostly he's just the gravitational center for the other three to wildly spin around. The premise makes little to no sense. Kristen Johnston is a divorce attorney who has broken up with her cheating fiancee, and she sets up three of her clients as roommates in an apartment she owns across the hall from her own. Because any part of that sentence is totally plausible.

The storylines are equally ridiculous. Donald Faison and David Alan Basche both fall in love with a kinky lingerie model who doesn't speak English. Kristen Johnson keeps up the illusion that she's engaged to avoid telling her prying mother the truth. There isn't a whit of nuance to a single plot or joke. And yet... I laughed. I laughed multiple times. Sure, the jokes are cheap, but I'm not above that. I enjoy a good "Your mama" or "That's what she said..." as much as the next buffoon.

Most of the credit for this show working in any way has to go to Johnston, who somehow manages to make a stereotypical caricature of a well-intentioned hot mess enjoyable. I don't want to give the impression that there's anything smart about this show; like most TV Land shows, it revels in its cheap hackery. But you can't spend every night unraveling the complexities of Breaking Bad. Once in a while, you just want to kick back and watch a bunch of goofy shenanigans, and on that front, this show definitely delivers.

The Exes - Season 1: C+


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