‘The Unicorn’ benefits from keeping it simple

Sunday, November 15, 2020 - 9:01pm

NOSELL

CBS

When CBS’s original sitcom “The Unicorn” made its debut last year, it walked a fine line between genuinely heartfelt and nauseatingly corny. 

One year after family man Wade Felton (Walton Goggins, “The Righteous Gemstones”) lost his wife, he is ready to start dating again — thanks to the encouragement of his loyal and invested friends. In the pilot episode, they tell him that he’s like a unicorn to women everywhere: an attractive, devoted father who isn’t looking to jump into anything serious. It’s a show about grief, or rather its long term, awkward aftermath. 

Between all the superficial “emotional” moments, and the constant mediocre parenting jokes, there’s definitely a lot not to love about the series’ first go. Yet, “The Unicorn” succeeded in one crucial thing — perhaps the only crucial thing — that a show like this needs to: It gave us fantastic characters.

Wade’s four best friends, two family-friend couples, have been ridiculously involved in his dating life since the very start. Now, the gang is back and as endearingly goofy as ever. Season two picks up right where it left us, as Wade tracks down his new mysterious love interest.

Wade’s friends are less supportive than usual with this one, pointing out that his efforts might be a bit … obsessive. Nevertheless, Wade cannot get the woman out of his head. 

This premise isn’t anything out of the ordinary for the show, and it’s certainly not very original for a romantic sitcom. Nothing about the formula and content has changed. However, “The Unicorn” thrives when it plays it safe. Leaning on proven romcom storylines, and less on half-hearted grieving “unicorn” moments, gives the cast more room to shine. The feel-good layer isn’t gone, it’s just a bit more restrained; a trend I hope to see continue. 

Forrest (Rob Corddry, “Ballers”), whose chemistry with Delia (Michaela Watkins, “Bad Therapy”) was my favorite part of the last season, is still the standout. This time, he is adjusting to life at his new job, where he is pressured to work at a standing desk. But the best bits come from the group’s relationship with Wade. 

Hopping on a conference call, the team discusses their strategy for tampering with Wade’s relationship this time. Like always, the four’s crazed investment lies somewhere between being good friends and being bored with married life. It’s a dynamic that continues to work well for the show and remains a natural breeding ground for hilarious and lovable character moments. 

It’s not very often that I wish for a show to veer away from darker themes. But for one with such a constraining premise like this, the writers are at their best when they’re not forcing anything too heavy. The first episode of season two does a good job of understanding this, and if the show can continue to trust its cast, it will find a spot in the hearts of upper middle-class parents for years to come.

 

Daily Arts Writer Ben Servetah can be reached at bserve@umich.edu


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