The Bottom Line
- Stars Donald Faison, David Alan Basche, Wayne Knight, Kristen Johnston, Kelly Stables
- Created by Mark Reisman
- Premieres November 30, 2011, at 10:30 p.m. EST on TV Land
The pilot sets up Basche’s needy Stuart as deeply unlikable, with his pathetic codependency and overbearing desire for approval, but at least the show backs off from there once he becomes integrated into the group. He’s still by far the most annoying and useless character, and Basche’s bland screen presence is especially unimpressive when compared to his co-stars. Faison, Knight and Johnston save a lot of the material from being completely unwatchable, and Johnston in particular is often delightful to watch just in the way she carries herself or delivers certain lines. She got to engage in plenty of physical comedy on 3rd Rock From the Sun, and while she doesn’t have the chance to do much of that in the early episodes of The Exes, the potential is still there for some funny set pieces down the road.
Unfortunately, the show isn’t really about Holly or her diminutive sexpot assistant Eden (Kelly Stables). It’s about the three guys, mainly Phil and Stuart, and they’re not all that amusing or interesting. Basche and Faison both essentially play the straight-man role, which makes their scenes together particularly anemic. And Knight does little more than sit on the couch and offer up wan rejoinders in what pass for jokes on this show; if Haskell is meant to be a main character, he’s going to need a lot more to do. The show’s second episode, with a storyline about the statuesque Holly dating a jockey, is as hokey and predictable as the others, but far more entertaining thanks to the showcase that it offers Johnston.
Ultimately The Exes is going to stand or fall on the strength of its ensemble, and while the leads don’t quite have the chemistry of the stars of Hot in Cleveland (TV Land’s first and still best original sitcom), they bring enough enthusiasm and charm to the project to make it mostly tolerable. Just because these shows have low budgets, small casts and limited sets doesn’t mean they should be forced to dish out storylines and dialogue that are just as cheap and recycled. The stars of The Exes can do better; they have in the past, and they occasionally do here. If the terrible show they’re stuck in would just let them, it could turn out to be something sort of decent.