The Bottom Line
- Stars Peter Vack, Kim Shaw, Jordan Carlos, Elisabeth Hower, Sunkrish Bala
- Created by David J. Rosen
- Airs Thursdays at 11 p.m. EST starting February 2, 2012, on MTV
Jason’s friends are similarly “poor”; his best friend Tina (Kim Shaw) works at a vaguely defined magazine job, while cohabitating couple Eric (Jordan Carlos) and Stacey (Elisabeth Hower) are both in graduate school (Eric as a medical student). The show does at least pay lip service to the characters’ financial struggles, and includes the proprietor of their local bodega (Sunkrish Bala) as a series regular, offering up working-class comic relief. The group’s dating travails are a little more authentic, even though Jason and Tina’s just-friends dynamic is a pretty obvious setup for a “will they or won’t they?” storyline down the road (spoiler alert: They most likely will). While Eric and Stacey are making tentative steps toward maturity by living together, Jason and Tina are still bumbling through hookups and nebulous relationships.
The title comes from Jason’s one-night stand in the first episode, with a girl he meets in a bar and becomes inordinately attached to. She borrows his pants and then disappears, leaving him with a fake phone number. While Jason defensively insists he just wants his pants back, he’s clearly smitten with this girl, and the show periodically teases an eventual reunion. In the meantime, it’s refreshingly matter-of-fact about casual sex and friends-with-benefits scenarios, even if both Jason (with the pants girl) and Tina (with an insensitive on-and-off hookup) actually yearn for something more stable.
The biggest stumbling block is the show’s depiction of hipster culture, which almost always comes off as forced. Whether it’s honestly hyping carefully selected of-the-moment bands like Wavves and Battles or self-mockingly depicting silly hipster affectations like spontaneous marching bands, Pants seems like it’s trying too hard to ingratiate itself with an audience that disdains hipsters but is also always on the lookout for the next cool thing. The dialogue, too, often stumbles over itself, which is a shame since the actors are all charming, especially Shaw as the winningly scattered Tina.
Creator David J. Rosen, who adapted his own novel, and the show’s producers (including filmmaker Doug Liman, who directed the pilot) probably want Pants to be seen as MTV’s version of an “edgy” HBO show like How to Make It in America (also about young people trying to succeed in New York City), but it’s more like a grittier version of all those Friends-lite shows that networks have been churning out over the last couple of seasons. At best, that means it could be sort of charming, like Happy Endings has turned out to be, or it could just end up with the forgotten likes of Friends With Benefits and Mad Love.