Gary Unmarried: The Complete First Season
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (14th April 2010).
The Show

“Gary Unmarried” feels like a show from the 90's to me. Maybe it’s because the whole aesthetic of the sets – down to the lighting, the camera movements, stock shots of locations, to the oh-so-obvious artificial exteriors – that screams sitcom. Or perhaps, it’s the wholly unnecessary and grating laugh track that seemingly dates it to a timeframe some decade-and-a-half ago. Still possibly it could be Jay Mohr himself, and the whole “snarky comedian gets a show where he plays the everyman Father” premise on which “Gary” is based – a foundation on which so many sitcoms from the 80's, 90's and early 2000's share – that makes me think “Gary Unmarried” is older than it is.

Actually, I think I’m confused because “Gary Unmarried” is all of the things I mentioned above – a multi-camera sitcom, with a laugh track, starring a once-raunchy comedian, “filmed in front of a live studio audience.” It confounds me because, even though it is all those things, it’s successful. Haven’t we evolved past our love of that type of sitcom? I realize sitcoms still exist, but I thought we progressed somewhat past the “Friends” (1994-2004), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (1996-2005), and even “Two and A Half Men” (2003-present) type of sitcom, to something that isn’t so squarely genre-pegged. Yes, as a society, we like our TV pretty dumb –“Reality” TV for certain – but it seems, that viewers have gone into the opposite direction for fictional entertainment on the tube too – “LOST” (2004-2010), “24” (2001-2010), “Glee” (2009-Present), and even “CSI” (2000-Present) are the top, most watched shows on TV in recent memory – right? Doesn’t that speak to the fact that viewers like higher quality, deeply developed TV? We’ve grown to hate the laugh track and the old-fashioned sitcom style, no? We’ll still watch a “sitcom”, but the whole idea of what a sitcom is has changed to something more akin to “The Office” (2005-Present) and “30 Rock” (2007-Present), hasn’t it? Single camera, with less basic comedy, and more stuff that is generally high concept. We expect shows to have high production value and to not look like they are filmed on a soundstage with a studio audience (unless it’s “30 Rock” – then sometimes it does, because it’s supposed to). The creators of “Modern Family” (2009-Present), “The Office” and “Arrested Development” (2003-2006) even play up on our reality TV craze by making those sitcoms seem more like documentaries then anything else, sometimes with narrators and sometimes not.

So that begs the question, why was “Gary Unmarried” considered “one of the best new shows” of 2008 and still receives high marks today, because it really is nothing like the other current shows that are liked. If it’s so old-school, and outside the norm of what most viewers seem to like today that they only way that it can be as liked as it is, would be that the show is just too funny to pass up. A show that despite the odds is funny enough to have it faults overlooked, right? Well, no. Ed Yeager’s show is really not that funny, unfortunately. In fact, it’s sort of the opposite of that sometimes, for more than a few reasons. Chiefly, since when was divorce funny, especially the type of divorce shown here, where the parents “use the kids as currency” (an actual line from the show), play the kids off the other parent, and argue and scream all the time?

“Gary Unmarried” concerns Gary (Jay Mohr), a newly divorced contractor, who’s adjusting to his new single life after being hitched for fifteen years. His ex, Allison (Paula Marshall) is already getting remarried soon, and to the old couples original relationship counselor, Dr. Walter Krandall (Ed Begley Jr.), no less. Stuck in between their often-warring parents are the ex-couples 14 year-old son Tom (Ryan Malgarini) and daughter Louise (Kathryn Newton). This fairly basic and often feeble premise is about as deep as it gets for this show. The writers use the situation to frame singular episodes and plots around, all of which are concluded to a happy end by the closing credits in a quick 22-minutes. Certain plots do get more screen time – running between episodes, but it’s never anything too serious and typically it’s character relationships that form this small arc. For instance, Gary’s developing relationship with a new girlfriend may span half-the-season, but it’s such a loose construct that I’d hardly consider it deep, developed, layered or involving. Instead, it’s just sort of always there, in the back somewhere.

The jokes get old or tired quickly, but that’s bound to happen when one of your go to quips for Allison is to make a joke about how Gary can could never please her in bed, or that he could only last 2 minutes. It base humor, old humor and it gets brought up in every episode, so that why the time she says it in episode 20, you already see the punch line before the set up is even in the cards. The same goes for Gary and his jabs at Krandall for being old. And the very existence of Gary supposedly humorous best friend Dennis (Al Madrigal), a character who’s loveable but almost too stupid to function, is an unfunny cliché of a character that they thankfully put aside for more thought-out ones later in the season.

Is “Gary Unmarried” a total loss? No. Sometimes the writing is above average, and sometimes the characters are likable, and the plot actually works. Sometimes even, the show is funny. But, that’s only “sometimes.” How long that arbitrary time frame of occasional decency lasts, I don’t know… It could be for less than a second in one episode, or very infrequently I found whole episodes to be genuinely worthy. The thanksgiving episode, “Gary Gives Thanks”, is actually not terrible, thanks in large part to the introduction of a handful of new characters (Allison’s parents and Gary’s dad) and the addition of agreeably better actors (Martin Mull, Jane Curtin and Max Gail).

But even that episode is imperfect, failing to the dangers of dullness and mediocrity. Jokes that aren’t funny stifle the atmosphere, especially as it seems that these unfunny (or lame) quips are accompanied with the loudest artificial laughter of the laugh track, as though to cover up the failings. As to that also, I hate laugh tracks – they add nothing, are dated beyond belief, and in my opinion, “Gary” would improve immensely if the fake chortles, howls and sniggers were gone. Would it fix the average-ness that seeps into so many aspects of the show? No, but it would make watching “Gary Unmarried” just that much easier – and the lame, unfunnies wouldn’t seem especially worthless if they received the silence that they deserved, because, a bad joke that nobody laughs at gets swept under the rug, and no one remembers it. A bad joke that gets the biggest laugh of the night – that’s just unpleasant.

I like Jay Mohr, I really do. But, I don’t really like his new show. Is it (or he) terrible? Nope. But, he’s better than this. And the show could easily be smarter. But, whatever – he’s found success in the mainstream and is collecting a paycheck, so good for him, right?

All 20 episodes from the show’s first season are spread across three discs. Disc one contains episodes 1-7, disc two 8-14, and disc three runs to the end, with a majority of the special features also residing on the last platter. Season One includes:

- "Pilot"
- "Gary Gets Boundaries"
- "Gary Marries off His Ex"
- "Gary Gets His Stuff Back"
- "Gary Breaks Up His Ex-Wife and Girlfriend"
- "Gary Meets the Gang"
- "Gary and Allison’s Restaurant"
- "Gary and Allison Brooks"
- "Gary Gives Thanks"
- "Gary Goes First"
- "Gary Toughens Up Tom"
- "Gary Dates Louise’s Teacher"
- "Gary Moves Back In"
- "Gary and Dennis’ Sister"
- "Gary’s Ex-Brother in Law"
- "Gary Uses His Veto"
- "Gary Hooks Up Allison"
- "Gary and the Trophy"
- "Gary and His Half Brother"
- "Gary Fixes Allison’s Garbage Disposal"

Video

The anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen image is about what you would expect for this type of release – bright, colorful, with above average detail, little-to-no compression artifacts, and no dirt or damage (it’s a brand new HD-video based show after all, so that’s to be expected). The DVD obviously won’t approach the level of clarity and sharpness of the weekly CBS HDTV broadcast, but in the scope of other standard def discs this is one for the higher end of the spectrum, even if from a visual standpoint, the show has a very bland sitcom look.

Audio

“Gary Unmarried” has an unambiguous but hardly problematic sitcom-soundtrack. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix provides what you’d want from a show of this type – clear, well prioritized dialogue. Surrounds get little use, bass is light to the point that it’s not present and, of course, there’s the annoying laugh-track (god, how I wish content providers would create an option to turn off the artificial laughter; the DVD format certainly has the ability to provide such an option if they wanted to implement such a choice, so it seems only smart to do so). Basically, this is a generic mix for an equally plain TV series.
Optional French, Spanish and English for the hearing impaired subtitles are included.

Extras

Supplements are sort of dry and limited for Season One of “Gary Unmarried” but what’s due is due – I admit that some of the material here is worth a watch. Three featurettes, a blooper reel are book-ended by a smattering of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look.

DISC ONE:

The only extras on this disc are bonus trailers for:

- “Alice in Wonderland” runs 1 minute 40 seconds (Anamorphic 16x9, 5.1 Dolby Digital).
- “Make It or Break It: Season One” runs 58 seconds (16x9 window-box, 5.1 Dolby Digital).
- “Greek: Chapter Four” runs 57 seconds (16x9 window-box, 5.1 Dolby Digital).

DISC TWO:

No extras are included on this disc.

DISC THREE:

First up is “The Chemistry of Comedy”, a fairly effective behind-the-scenes featurette. It’s a little fluffy, but actually quite informative and well meaning. A surprising amount of B-roll is included here, surrounded by a mercifully small amount of clips from the show and plenty of worthwhile commentary from executive producer/director James Burrows, executive producer Ric Swartzlander, series creator Ed Yeager and actors Paula Marshall, Jay Mohr, Max Gail, and Ed Begley Jr., Ryan Malgarini, Kathryn Newton, among others. Topics include the origins of the show, working with the child actors, Jay’s adlibbing on set, “legendary” director James Burrows and a whole mess of other material. Runs 15 minutes 11 seconds, in anamorphic widescreen.

Next, “Planet Begley” is a featurette and profile of actor Ed Begley Jr., discussing his unique lifestyle and how he came to be so environmentally conscious. Mohr and many of the other cast members talk about his peculiarities on set, and finally Begley gives us a tour of his 100% green, eco-friendly house complete with Electric Car. On a side note, I love the Coke-bottle countertops in his kitchen (very cool way to recycle and they look great). 5 minutes 38 seconds, in anamorphic widescreen.

The last of the featurette is the fairly straightforward “Tuesday: on the Set with Jay”, a tour of the various sets and behind-the-scenes niceties life craft-services. Although it’s a little more on the light side compared to the more informative and better-produced features above, this is still a fine addition to the supplemental package. 5 minutes 18 seconds, in anamorphic widescreen.

And finally, “Gary Unhinged” is your standard blooper reel. 2 minutes 16 seconds, in anamorphic widescreen.

Sneak peek bonus trailers are for:

- "Disney Blu-ray" spot, 1 minute (Anamorphic 16x9, 5.1 Dolby Digital).
- “Old Dogs” on Blu-ray and DVD. 2 minutes 23 seconds, (Anamorphic 16x9, 5.1 Dolby Digital).

Packaging

The 3-disc release comes housed in a standard clear Amaray case with a cardboard slipcover. A removable sticker on the cover incorrectly advertises a collection of Deleted Scenes, which are not included on the DVDs.

Overall

Average. Lowbrow. Middle-of-the-road. Uninspired. Disappointing. Those are just few of the words and phrases that litter my notes for “Gary Unmarried: Season One”, a show so blandly generic and mindless. There were a few moments throughout the season that were above the infuriating dullness that “Gary” usually is – indeed there was a whole episode that I almost completely liked – but, I have no interest in this series, and the only way I will ever venture again into it’s wholly ordinary sitcom world will be if I get the second season to review. Fans should be happy with this 3-disc DVD set, which offers good video, genre appropriate audio, and skimpy but not worthless extras.

The Show: C- Video: B Audio: C Extras: D+ Overall: C

 


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