Saturday, March 18, 2006

Significant Others

I'm not sure if it was serendipity or careful planning that led to the DVD release of this show's entire run (a mere 12 episodes over two seasons) just a few months before two shows in the same style and created by members of the Significant Others creative team premiered on network TV. ABC's Sons & Daughters was created by and stars Fred Goss, who plays half of one of four couples on SO, and Fox's Free Ride was created by Robert Roy Thomas, the co-creator of SO; both are half-hour sitcoms in SO's semi-improvised style. Anyone who likes either of those shows can clearly see their roots (as well as some of their co-stars) in this short-lived and little-watched show that aired on Bravo in 2004.

The DVD set showed up in the mail at work and looked mildly amusing, so I took it home and ended up watching all 12 episodes much in the manner that I watched the first season of Scrubs: They were pleasant and sometimes mildly amusing, and a better way to pass 22 minutes than randomly flipping through channels. The show follows four couples (although only three appear in each episode) as they deal with married life and attend couples' therapy. The lives of the central couples never overlap, so what you get is essentially four different shows united by a common theme and style. Thomas makes good use of his obviously small basic-cable budget, shooting in a handful of locations and anchoring the show around the therapy sessions, in which the couples talk directly to the camera as if the audience is the therapist.

Thanks to its improvisational structure, Significant Others is often unpredictably weird and funny, but it's just as often rambling and unfocused. Both Thomas and Goss seem to have learned some lessons from this show, because their subsequent efforts are more tightly plotted and have a better focus (I'm sure they have bigger budgets, too, being on network TV). I watched two episodes of Free Ride and three of Sons & Daughters on review screeners and found them relatively amusing but not worth carving out any of my time for. Still, if two shows make a trend, then this may be the next big effort to reinvent the sitcom. So far the ratings for Goss and Thomas's new shows have been less than impressive, but if they (or their style) take off, then Significant Others may end up being viewed as a groundbreaking show. I think it's more likely that it'll just be a way that I killed some time for a few hours.

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