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Married: The Complete Season 1
A comedy about marriage and all its awfulness
Loves: Good sitcoms, my wife, Jenny Slate
Likes: Black comedy, Brett Gelman
Dislikes: Depressing TV
Hates: Bad marriages
It's amazing how entire TV series can be created and aired with hardly anyone noticing they ever even existed. I don't watch a lot of FX since most of the shows I watched on that channel have moved to The Simpsons Channel, and as a result, I had no clue that the great Judy Greer was starring in her own sort-of sitcom, and that even better, it also featured the hilarious Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman and John Hodgman. Not until it crossed my path on shiny discs was Married even a concept. However, a couple million people watched it, and now it's headed for a second season.
So what's it all about? Lina Bowman (Greer), a stay-at-home mom, and Russ Bowman (Nat Faxon, Ben and Kate), a freelance graphic designer, are a husband and wife living in California with their three kids. Things could be going better for them, as money is always tight and intimacy between them is limited. This is obvious from the first episode, as Russ' desire for sex is met with tired disinterest from Lina, who tells him he should go find someone to satisfy his needs. Encouraged by his terrible friends Jess (Slate) and AJ (Gelman), he strikes up a potential hook-up with a hair waxer, but it all goes horrifically wrong in a Rube Goldberg-ian tale of lust and loss. That is the story of Lina and Russ in a nutshell.
Faxon and Greer were excellent choices to portray these unhappily married sufferers, as they make Russ and Lina wonderfully realistic, while still being quite funny. That's a definite feat, considering how utterly depressing their lives can be. As much as it can surprise people, marriage is not a neverending stream of rainbows and puppies, and the Bowmans experience much of the downside, including high dental bills, aging, housing costs, regrets and the responsibilities of adulthood. Admittedly, they are the designers of their own unhappiness in many of the situations they find themselves in, but it still often sucks to be them. That there is humor in their failings is what makes the show, which was created by Frat House co-director Andrew Gurland, interesting to watch. A scene in which the couple has phone sex, complicated by the reality of their lives, sums up the series' sense of humor and pathos nicely. In a way, it's like a prequel to Louis CK's FX series.
Though Greer and Faxon are a big part of why the show works, the reason it's funny mainly rides on Slate and Gelman (and Hodgman as well, who plays Russ' friend and employer.) Slate's Jess is a woman stuck in an awkward transition between young adulthood and maturity, married to an older man (a lightly employed, but funny Paul Reiser), but sexting neighbors' husbands and doing cocaine, while Gelman's AJ is a pill-popping divorcee, barely burying his pain in hookers and rage. These are not the optimal associates for Russ, but they are all he has, and they power most of the show's biggest laughs, including much of the back half of the season, where they are almost co-leads, as AJ's life spirals down. Spreading the story around takes advantage of a wonderful cast, and prevents the viewer from getting stuck in the Bowmans' rut with them. It also allows the show to explore the effects of marriage on those outside of it.
The first season of Married is spread over two DVD-Rs, which are packed into a standard-width keepcase with a tray. The DVDs offer static widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes or select shows. There are no audio options, but closed captioning is available. (Note: these discs would not play in my PC DVD drive.)
The anamorphic widescreen transfers capture the show's occasionally soft, natural look well, with a nice level of fine detail, good color and decent black levels. There's nothing really worth worrying about in terms of compression artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks on these episodes are pretty active, with the surrounds offering up musical enhancement and some strong atmospherics, while dialogue is found front and center. The low-end is mostly absent though, as there's little in the series that demands its presence. Solid delivery for the material.
Even the Bowmans have more fun than these DVDs, which offer zero extras.
The Bottom Line
The first season of Married might hit a bit too close to home for some, with its realistic portrayal of marriage, but there's enough humor to balance out the more depressing elements, with a great cast that carries the show through the ups and (mainly) downs. The discs look and sound fine, but offer no extras, so the reason to get these discs is just to own them. The thing is, there are many other, funnier ways to see these people, so this one is less likely to be revisited. As with marriage, be careful about commitment.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.