Created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnne Heline
Produced by Blackie and Blondie productions, NBC Television
Aired on NBC for 1 season (13 episodes) from Jan 4 – March 15, 2005
Josh Cooke as Nate Solomon
Jennifer Finnegan as Marni Fliss
Darius McCrary as Bowie James
Tammy Lynne Michaels as Tess
Tom Poston as Dying Clown
RonReaco Lee as Todd
Meet Nate and Marni, two complete opposites that have one thing in common: they are both eccentrically unable to find someone that they believe is “The One.” That is, until they mistakenly meet on a blind date that they go on together instead of with the dates they were set up with. After establishing a connection with each other that neither has felt before, they defy logic and reason to date one another even after sharing quirks that would normally send any sane person running for the hills. Now, together they are discovering what it means to be in a committed relationship with all the highs and lows and baggage that comes with it.
This sitcom is essentially a hangout comedy set in New York City, with a focus on Nate and Marni’s budding relationship as each tries to fit into the other’s life, including their friends and family. One of the most notable quirks about the characters is that Nate is a genius whose genetic make-up suggests that he will go insane like his parents and grandparents before him, while Marni is an everlasting optimist who just happens to have a literal dying clown living in her closet. They are often paired with friends Tess and Bowie, who give the main characters sage advice or a whimsical perspective on their romantic situations.
Developed during a time when NBC was struggling to find programming to fill their Must See TV Thursday lineup, this was when NBC had blocked the timeslot with Friends spinoff Joey and primetime mainstay Will & Grace, along with The Apprentice in the 9-10pm slot. As NBC tried to maintain the prestige of Thursday night, they had Tuesdays open for testing the waters with new sitcoms that may have the potential to graduate to Thursday nights. The 2004-2005 season saw the premieres of CGI animated series Father of Pride, romantic situation comedy Committed, and a US adaptation of UK comedy The Office, the only one of which was able to get a second season pickup.
Committed was not necessarily a new kind of sitcom, it’s more of an amalgam of the opposites attract romantic setup of Dharma and Greg mixed with Friends-type situations and Seinfeld-like quirks. The premise takes two date rejects that would’ve been paired with one of the main characters of a sitcom like Friends or Seinfeld (one that they would’ve taken a whole episode to make fun of and then discard) but instead of just making them the butt of the joke, this show has them fall in love with each other and appreciate the other person’s perceived flaws and quirks. It’s a romance built on accepting the other person’s issues and supporting them when they need it, with the caveat being that the other person’s baggage is heightened for comedic value.
The main couple of Nate and Marni are very nicely cast with Josh Cooke and Jennifer Finnegan. They have really good chemistry together and are individually interesting characters that are both endearing in their own way. It’s funny to note that these two would later reunite on another sitcom, Better with You (2010), where they also play a couple and maintain the good chemistry that they show here. The supporting cast is also very strong, with Darius McCrary and Tammy Lynn Michaels as the main couple’s respective best friends. Both actors are veteran talents of the small screen, McCrary notable for his time on sitcom Family Matters and Michaels for her excellent portrayal of a mean cheerleader on WB teen drama series Popular. Another prominent aspect of the series is the almost completely out of place addition of Tom Poston as a dying clown who lives in Marni’s walk in closet. Although it’s a seemingly tangential element on the show, the clown adds a classic comic component that heightens the comedy by juxtaposing the modern setting. There’s a sense of comedy history within the clowns subplots that if the show had continued, could’ve been mined more. Some of the most hilarious moments come from Tom Poston’s presence as the dying clown and his incredible comic timing.
The season is partly serialized but not in a way that would be confusing if one missed an episode. In fact, the season aired out of sequence but it still managed to maintain coherence with only one instance of continuity confusion. In the beginning of the series, the show drew most of its driving narrative from the main couple, Nate and Marni, as they became better acquainted with each other, overcoming their neurotic sensibilities or conflict that arises from the friends or family that they seek approval from in order to be together. The secondary characters would later have their own subplots, sending the best friends off on their own comic adventures either individually or together. Throughout the season, the comedy would vary from cynical to quirky, silly, dark, dirty, weird, or slapstick. In one episode, the show could spend most of its time centered on Nate’s inability to take out money from an ATM, while in another episode Marni and her friend Tess would spend their B plot investigating “hairgasms” as Nate and Bowie try to return communion without inciting sacrilege. These are very oddball plots that all still somehow fall in the same comedic tone of the show.
One of the most interesting aspects of the series is its use of classic sitcom actors to cameo on the series, which allowed it a bit of comedy television prestige. In connection to Poston’s dying clown character they presented Bob Newhart as a rival clown named “Blinky” and Jerry Van Dyke as a magician/animal wrangler. Also, Valerie Harper appeared as Nate’s institutionalized mother, Lily.
Episode 2, “The Return of Todd Episode”: One of the funniest recurring characters is RonReaco Lee as Todd, a cheerful wheelchair-bound friend of Marni’s that hates Nate because he wants Marni for himself. There’s a good competitive dynamic between him and Nate that plays significantly into the season finale.
Episode 5, “The Morning After Episode”: This episode was originally intended to be the third episode of the season as it centers on a landmark relationship event with them having slept together for the first time. In the episode, we learn a lot about Marni and her emotional baggage with her father, which plays out very humorously with guest actor Don Lake as Marni’s father.
Episode 9, “The Mother Episode”: A similarly revealing episode for Nate as “The Morning After Episode” was for Marni, guest star Valerie Harper is a lot of fun in this episode as Nate’s mother, playing against both Nate and Marni, who desperately seeks her approval.
Episode 12-13, “The Perfect Person Episode” part 1 and 2: This is the two part season series finale that puts Nate in a position to lose Marni. The show, of course, has them come back together, but in a way that is a bit unexpected yet fitting given the series’ theme.
Although the series lasted only 13 episodes and was passed over to make way for breakout comedy The Office to flourish, this show is worthy of preservation. The cast is talented and the writing and humor are unique (albeit a bit dated). As well as being a sitcom of its time, this series also showcased some great classic comedians from television’s past in fun roles. When the show premiered in 2005 it was not entirely well received, as it is a show that may come off as too quirky at first. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but the characters get more interesting and endearing as the season progresses. It would benefit from a binge watch more than anything and the series doesn’t end disappointingly, as it leaves things off in the spirit of how it began, optimistic and enlightened.
After this series ended, creators Eileen Heisler and DeAnne Heline went on to create The Middle, which is currently in its sixth season.
Josh Cooke has gone on to appear on Dollhouse, Dexter, and is currently a main cast member on CW series Hart of Dixie.
Jennifer Finnegan would later star in Close to Home, then appear on Monday Mornings and, recently, FX’s Tyrant, both in main roles.
Darius McCrary has appeared on the recently-ended Anger Management and Tammy Lynn Micheals has had guest stints on shows like That ’80s Show and The L Word.
Currently there is no DVD available of the complete series, but luckily just about all the episodes are available to stream on Youtube.