Contrary to popular belief, I love TV, and any show I sit down to watch, I want to enjoy. I'm really trying to be an optimist here, so let's start with the good, before I mention how I quite literally enjoyed the Botox commercial during Manhattan Love Story more than Manhattan Love Story.
1) They finally gave Kurt Fuller something to do.
2) At the end of the episode, there is a long scene, I'd estimate about four minutes or so. The beginning and the end of that scene are terrible, but there's a solid ninety seconds or so in the middle where Manhattan Love Story is something other than the television equivalent of a smoldering pile of burning corpses caked in the blood and feces of black plague victims. For ninety seconds (nearly two minutes if you throw in the two short Kurt Fuller scenes!), MLS is actually pretty good.
Unfortunately, it's a twenty-two minute show, and the other twenty minutes are every bit the comedy oubliette that the last twenty-two minutes were.
For my own sanity, we're going to dwell on the good for another paragraph here. Kurt Fuller actually gets screen time this week, and while even he can't elevate scenes shared with acceptably acted but poorly written leading man Jake McDorman or his poorly acted and even more poorly written sidekick brother, Fuller has two very short- but solid- scenes playing opposite Chloe Wepper's Chloe, who remains the show's MVP. That's a lot like being the best high-jumper with only half a leg, but it's something. Show me the two Fuller/Wepper scenes absent everything else, and I'd tell you it looked like a show I'd want to watch .
Manhattan Love Story is not a show I want to watch. The writers are committed to their constant narration gimmick, but they're so very bad at it that it twice ruins scenes that otherwise might have been good; a sequence in the middle involving stolen panties that could have played well (you know, by the lowered "good driver for a blind guy" standards we need to hold this show to) as a little bit of understated physical comedy, and the aforementioned long closing scene, who's solid stretch ends the second the narration resumes. The real tragedy here is that 2/3s of the cast are game, killing themselves to try and get this terrible material over. The other two (Nicolas Wright and Jade Catta-Preta) are either woefully miscast or just not talented enough to find something salvageable in the smoldering crater of sitcom cliche, inhuman behavior, and general unpleasantness that is the writing for their characters. Short version: this show isn't the actors' fault.
The writers, however, need to be run out of town. They more-or-less steal a great vintage How I Met Your Mother joke, but lack the conviction to steal the part that's actually funny. They create inconsistent characters who seem to exist only to fuel the internal narration that's never funny (Selfie also uses internal narration, and shouldn't, but at least occasionally gets a laugh out of it). The plot lines are tired cliches- this is the third online dating-themed episode of the two-week old sitcom season, following the A to Z pilot and New Girl's outing, with at least Selfie and probably Mulaney sure to follow- and the jokes barely warrant the name. The writers have a complete inability to recognize which of their characters work; Fuller and Wepper have less than half the screen time of the other (atrocious) supporting characters, and any time either of the leads starts threatening to elevate the material, the script is there to smash them downward. The obvious metaphor here would be Icarus, but really it's Sisyphus that's apropos; Manhattan Love Story is Hell, and no matter how the actors struggle, all they accomplish by pushing that scriptural boulder up the hill is ensuring that they've got more hill to roll down when they're inevitably crushed beneath it.
I'm now going to get a little more open and personal than I usually do on this blog, because it seems relevant. I wrote ninety percent of this review while shitting, under the logic that that's what Manhattan Lover Story deserves. My roommate, who watched the first episode with me, pointed out that doing so was "an insult to your pooping." He was not wrong.
In editing this piece, I cut out a holocaust joke, a joke that referenced the developmentally disabled, and a joke comparing a character on the show to a torn anal canyon. I cut these jokes because they're odious and/or offensive, because if I read them written by someone else, I would most likely find them reprehensible. And yet… I wrote them. So profound was my hatred for Manhattan Love Story, I briefly forgot my own values, briefly let my hate consume me and lashed out, without a care for collateral damage. From this brief journey into darkness, I can conclude only one thing:
Manhattan Love Story is a Sith Lord.