Nobody wants to admit they like MTV. Quote “Teen Mom 2” in your best Evans family imitation (“I SEE YOU WIFF KEIFFAH, JENELLE!”)? Sure. Laugh at Snooki’s drunken stumbles? You bet. But acknowledge that MTV’s latest sexually charged series may be engaging and (gulp!) funny? Seek shelter and sharpen the cries for long-lost music videos! But it’s true — MTV gives viewers exactly what they need and revisits the neglected realm of scripted television with Thursday night’s fist-pump-free “I Just Want My Pants Back.”

I Just Want My Pants Back

Pilot
Thursdays at 11 p.m.
MTV


Based on the novel by David J. Rosen, “I Just Wants My Pants Back” follows Jason Strider (Peter Vack, “As the World Turns”), stuck in a less-than-satisfactory entry-level position at a New York casting agency and plagued by a painful six-week dry spell — so painful that poor Jason can barely “remember what sex smells like.” Climbing his way from rock bottom, Jason meets Jane, the soon-to-be-elusive “Fridge Girl.” After a quick exchange of witty banter and drinks, the two, hunched in the comfort of Jason’s refrigerator, exchange something else — bodily fluids. Broccoli is an aphrodisiac, right? One sunrise later, the one-night stand steals off with Jason’s jeans, leaving him without a life plan or a pair of pants.

Each joke whizzes by as “Pants” churns out humor of all kinds: subtle remarks, witty (and some not-so-witty) puns, pop-culture-conscious comments, snide retorts and delightfully raunchy allusions. Despite the risk of falling into the stereotypical “teen-y” ranks of “Skins” or “My Life as Liz,” “Pants” dodges over-the-top attempts at relatability and edge. Shockingly, the show succeeds in evoking laughs. That’s right — not a slight snort or throaty chuckle, but a literal “LOL.” After a sloppy entertainment lawyer urges Jason to stick his thumb in a previously uncharted orifice, he heads to the local store for a splint, complaining that “her sphincter had the grip of a merchant marine.”

Yet at times, “Pants” may be trying a little too hard, as illustrated by buxom friend Tina Bradley (Kim Shaw, “She’s Out of My League”). An overwhelming, overdone portrait of the hot-girl-with-a-male-brain, Tina is quick to spit obviously over-thought lines, such as “take the deal, otherwise a handjob is a man’s job and you can get out at the light and mind my vagina.” Mother Goose must have excluded that one from her collection.

Instead, Jason holds the real charm, like a cuter Andy Samberg in desperate need of a haircut (and maybe a dose of reality). Despite his lazy ways, Jason is an incredibly likeable character, playful and optimistic despite his pants-less circumstances. Vack is endearingly genuine, portraying the protagonist with a subtle vulnerability and casual demeanor. His character seems far more “real” than the manicured “reality” casts MTV has manufactured for years.

Strider may have described his fridge-humping hook-up as “cute, funny, and surprisingly filthy,” but such compliments apply more so to the new Thursday night favorite, “I Just Want My Pants Back.” After the spray tans of the “Shore” and the solemn-faced squabbles of “The Hills,” MTV has finally done something right.

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