Thursday, September 26, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Unicorn' - Wade's Friends Convince Him to Start Living Again After His Wife's Death in 'Pilot'

CBS' The Unicorn - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

A tight-knit group of best friends and family help Wade embrace his "new normal" in the wake of the loss of his wife one year ago.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of CBS' The Unicorn.

"Pilot" was written by Bill Martin & Mike Schiff and directed by John Hamburg

This is a perfectly winning new comedy with an absolutely nonsensical title. Delia and Michelle explain that Wade has become a unicorn following his wife's death. He's a rare creature who has proven to be loyal and has just entered the dating scene to a crowd of people eagerly wanting exactly that. A "unicorn" isn't a common association for this specific situation though. When he drops that term later on when out on his first date, she has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. As such, that title may not define what this show is. That's unfortunate because the show itself is actually quite amusing and charming. It has a strong sense of itself while still remaining light on its feet. It may be about a tragedy that has rocked a family to its core. It uses that to define where Wade and his daughters start the series. But they are allowed to build onto that in the hopes of reclaiming something just as nice and healthy. It helps that this death hasn't immediately happened before the series starts. It was actually a year ago. Sure, Wade hasn't actually processed it in a meaningful way. He doesn't pick up on any of the signals that women are flirting with him. He is completely oblivious. But he's that way with his entire life. Things have fallen apart. He has always been positioned as a good and loving father. It just takes his friends knocking some sense into him for him to regain that sense of himself. That is significant. It is important to have friends like that. This group immediately comes across as people who love each other and rely on each other all the time. That is communicated so effectively in the scene in which they discuss who is picking up which kids after school. Their schedules may be crazy and chaotic but they will always support each other. That is a true sense of love that permeates throughout the entire proceedings. Grace and Natalie may not know what to do when they find their father on the kitchen floor hugging the last frozen meal given to the family after his wife's death. But his adult friends know exactly how to help. Sure, they may be single-minded in telling him that he simply needs to start dating again. That's something that he is against because it still feels too soon. It may be. He may not be ready for a meaningful relationship yet. But he can at least start living his life once more. This is him taking the first step towards that new reality. He needs to be an active participant in the world. His cooking may be terrible but it's something he loves doing. He has to find that inspiration. He may not go back to a woman's apartment to have sex with her. He's not ready for that just yet. But he is willing to look around at life and see what may be next for him and his family. Of course, he still has to present as a solid father. He may have been missing out on some huge developments in his daughters' lives. He may not know how to handle himself fully either. Sure, it's awkward and cliche for a comedy to center around a father flailing around because his wife used to handle all of the responsibilities. But here, there is a sensible explanation for why Wade may not know how to navigate through the emotional minefield of his daughter getting older. He has to lay ground rules though. He can do so while still coming across as loving and supportive as well. In fact, that's what brings so much charm and charisma to the proceedings here. Again, the show itself may be a little too obsessed with the dating scene and propping Wade up as this magical creature that doesn't actually exist. It can have much more fun simply hanging out with these friends as they continue to go through life. It will just be interesting to see how quickly the show makes that transition. The premiere is nice and warm. There is every indication that it could make that transition to large laughs. Or it could potentially find a way to allow sentimentality to be its defining characteristic despite how much that would stick out on the current CBS lineup.