The series premiere of “Married” does not present its central couple in a very good light. They’re tired, they don’t have sex, they snap and snark at each other and don’t seem to spend a lot of time together. The wife suggests he meet those needs elsewhere, and he very awkwardly tries to do just that.
Thursday’s (July 17) premiere, frankly, is not much of a debut. But in the way it builds the relationship between its leads, the premiere and subsequent episodes paint a much more sympathetic portrait of a marriage than what we see at first blush. In fact, it might be a good idea to watch the first few episodes in a cluster after. The cumulative effect of “Married” makes it a much more enjoyable show.
The series stars Judy Greer and Nat Faxon as Lina and Russ Bowman, who have been married for most of their adult lives. They have three daughters and money problems. It’s an entirely unglamorous life they live, and some of the regret they have over that fact is palpable. They lament their various problems to Jess (Jenny Slate) and A.J. (Brett Gelman), friends whose lives are equally messed up (she “married a sugar daddy who ran out of sugar,” he’s coming off a bad divorce) but who are more willing to cast their problems aside for a night out.
Slate and Gelman, along with guest star John Hodgman as Russ’ friend and occasional employer, get the lion’s share of the jokes in the early going. Russ — aside from the weird mistress-search subplot — and Lina are playing straight man and woman much of the time, but it works to the show’s favor. They share the foxhole mentality that marriage can breed, and it’s that aspect of the show where its potential really shines through.
There are little gestures between them, like a shared joke in the middle of an argument, that speak to the fact that they’re really in this together. There’s a funeral for a pet fish in the pilot as well, a scene we’ve seen numerous times before in other sitcoms. But the way Faxon and Greer convey Russ and Lina’s affection for their kids and each other in the scene — with easy, offhand smiles and compliments — feels like the kind of lived-in relationship that doesn’t usually prevail on TV.
There’s not a lot of drama to the Bowmans, and what there is tends to be pretty small-scale. Greer and Faxon are very good at selling the small things, though, and that’s what makes “Married” worth sticking with after the shaky start.
“Married” airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT Thursdays on FX.