Danny Burton is living in Detroit and something strange is happening in his life. He’s in his 30’s and all of his friends seem to be too busy for him. They’re getting married. They’re having children. They’re moving on with their lives. Where, Danny wonders, is the fun in that? What purpose could they have in accelerating their adulthood? On the contrary, Danny prefers to keep things casual, to live life fast and loose, and absolutely to his idea of the fullest. Armed with his conviction to live a life of perpetual adolescence, Danny heads off to find a new roommate in his hometown of Detroit.
Undateable Series Summary
In a bit of irony, Danny ends up residing with Justin, who on paper sounds like the perfect potential roomie: owns a bar, similar age. What’s not to like? Despite this, Justin is a collection of one socially awkward issue after another, and as such, he fits the bill of the title of the series. His best friend, Burski, gives new meaning to geekiness and is also undateable. You can see a theme developing here, one the series isn’t afraid to cultivate. Shelly and Brett, fellow series regulars and friends to Justin, have the sitcom-typical designations of “the unusual girl” and “the gay guy,” but are no less undateable. Even Justin’s sister, Leslie, who appears at first glance to be a completely “normal” individual, has the auspicious honor of being equally undateable due to her seemingly undesirable combination of being divorced and in her 30’s. Danny feels he can take this hodgepodge crew of social would-bes under his wing, but reflected in each of their desires for companionship is Danny’s eagerness to stay single, and that simply can’t last forever. In this contradiction, we find the heart of the series, because even sitcoms rely on whether you care about the characters, and wanting Danny to understand the purpose and worth of being in a relationship appears to be the ultimate goal of the series.
Somewhat unusual for modern sitcoms, the series is a bit of a throwback as it uses a traditional multi-cam approach for filming. For the uninitiated, this means the series is filmed with a studio audience, resultant laugh track and all. While this makes some modern viewers wary, it is with a keen eye and consideration for a series’ potential that some shows continue to be developed with such an approach in mind.
The benefit of this seemingly antiquated direction for a modern sitcom is evidently two-fold. For one, multi-cam shows are classically approachable by lay viewers in a manner in which single-camera, modern series such as The Office are not. Those types of series typically rely on complex, running jokes and ongoing plotlines. A show like Undateable, in contrast, is the type of series designed so that any viewer could reasonably watch a random episode and be able to follow the plots and jokes of that episode. A laugh track to subtly cue a viewer as to when a joke is being told helps to convey that easy-going style, and to ease the demands of viewership for a more relaxed watching experience. This type of comedy rose to dizzying heights of fame in the 1990’s with shows such as Friends. Similarly, the other crucial benefit of developing a multi-camera show is the live studio audience concept in and of itself. As a viewer of such a show, it’s impossible not to occasionally think to oneself that the people in the audience might be hired or cued to laugh at certain moments, but for the most part the participants are authentic. In fact, one way in which multi-camera series can help to spread good word of mouth is by making studio audience tickets widely available, and in the case of Undateable, viewers in the Los Angeles area have had reasonably easy access to tickets for the series, which ostensibly serves as good, free PR for the show.
Two minds are at the creative crux of the series. For one, Chris D’Elia serves as the lead of the show. Although he is not in a production role, his uniquely laid back comedic style helps to inform the overall tone of the series. By this token, D’Elia’s background is uniquely suited for the show. The son of writer and director Bill D’Elia, Chris toiled on stages for several years breaking into stand-up comedy before hurtling forward into TV stardom with a leading male role in the short-lived sitcom Whitney. As Whitney’s husband on the critically panned series, he was uniquely touted as a breakout star and potential leading man, which along with his dry and charming comic delivery, likely helped him to land a plum role in Undateable, where his easy-going presence allows him to steal scenes and share screens with equal measure.
The other major talent who set the ball rolling for the series is Bill Lawrence, of Scrubs fame. Between work on the critically acclaimed Cougar Town and the new series Ground Floor, he completed the script for the pilot, which was based on the book “Undateable: 311 Things Guys Do That Guarantee They Won’t Be Dating Or Having Sex,” by Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle. Non-fiction such as this has often led to popular series, and with hits such as Scrubs firmly under his belt and a knack for garnering a wide audience with a punchy mix of grounded and screwball humor, the show seemed destined for wide appeal.
Reviews and Renewal
Despite a late premiere date of May 2014, the show garnered positive sound bites from trusted online sources, such as the AV Club, said “quality work is still being done in multi-camera,” and Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post, who described the series as a “pleasant surprise.” Despite airing primarily in June, a traditionally slow month for network television, the series garnered strong numbers, especially in its earlier episodes. It can also be expected that viewers who chose to watch Undateable online likely helped to bolster ad revenue. Per Variety, executives were said to be pleased with the upcoming creative plan for the series and the strength of its cast. The show has been renewed for 10 episodes, with airdate to be determined.