Stop and take a look at Fox's Traffic Light
02/08/11 07:59 AM
Kris Marshall, Nelson Franklin and David Denman of Traffic Light. Fox photo
Premiering: Tuesday, Feb. 8th at 8:30 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Nelson Franklin, David Denman, Kris Marshall, Liza Lapira, Aya Cash
Produced by: Bob Fisher, David Hemingson
By ED BARK
Three guys, two girls, a baby and a bulldog are all well-served by the somewhat cryptically titled Traffic Light.
Premiering Tuesday in tandem with Raising Hope, this new Fox comedy has nothing to do with crossing guards or toll booth operators. But it's everything that NBC's similarly-minded Perfect Couples isn't -- amusing, appealing and relatable. Even better, its principal relationship-challenged characters are neither cloying or imbecilic. It's actually possible to imagine hanging out with these people and enjoying their company.
The previous title, Mixed Signals, is more to the point than Traffic Light. But the latter is touched on at the end of the first episode during the dedication of a baseball field to a deceased friend. So an explanation is forthcoming if it really matters in the grand scheme of things. After all, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation at first didn't seem like such a hot title either.
Traffic Light's three principal males, all in their 30s and best friends since college, seem all too typical on paper. All specialize, of course, in saying the wrong things to the women in their lives. And then trying to make up for it.
Married Mike (David Denman) and his wife, Lisa (Liza Lapira), are new parents of a baby boy. A lawyer by trade, he sometimes steals a little "me time" by watching movies in the back seat of his car before re-braving the family domain.
Adam (Nelson Franklin) is bespectacled, a bit chubby and newly moved in with his girlfriend, Callie (Aya Cash). "Every night is date night," she tells him, which crimps the time he used to spend freely with his buds.
Ethan (Kris Marshall) is the resident Lothario, a British paramedic and serial dater with an aversion to long-term commitments. Instead he bonds with his willful bulldog, Carl.
Their guy-centric byplay flows nicely, whether they're gang-talking on cell phones or discussing in Episode 2 whether a "burn notice" pact still holds in the case of Mike's wife re-establishing a friendship with a woman whom Ethan dated three years ago. This best of the first three episodes also features Adam's desperate attempt to win back a small stuffed carnival dog that he's used as a ploy to charm various girlfriends, including Callie.
Traffic Light is winning and amusing without being loud and loutish. Boys will be boys, but they're not par for the coarse. And the series' two regular women characters are intelligent and sometimes needy without being harpies. Even horn dog Ethan is no king leer.
Both Traffic Light and Raising Hope are without laugh tracks, leaving CBS as the last major broadcast network still embracing TV's old-time religion. And very successfully so, it should be emphasized.
Comedies without artificial additives still have a harder time busting out as major hits. ABC's Modern Family and NBC's The Office are very gainful properties but continue to fall well short of the ratings for CBS' Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.
Traffic Light isn't likely to crash prime-time's top 40 anytime soon. But it's a pleasant, agreeable surprise with an understated sense of itself. All males aren't cavemen, even if the species still needs a lot of work.