CBS touts Mad Love as “Four friends, single in New York City. Two are falling in love, two despise each other…for now.” Presumably it is the “for now” part involving the supposed sidekicks that is meant to differentiate this generic premise from a slew of likeminded shows. Innocuous as Mad Love’s premiere may be, producers of Perfect Couples take heed: THIS is what you wanted your show to be…witty, smartly written and with good chemistry between the characters. Mad Love makes a perfect companion to How I Met Your Mother, the only criticism being that it might be TOO similar. (In fact, judging from one press shot of the quartet at a bar, it even looks as though they are recycling sets.) 

Written in a similar vein to HIMYM,  schlumpy Larry (Tyler Labine) narrates the tale of how best bud Ben (Jason Biggs) met the love of his life, Kate (Sarah Chalke), with cynical flair, doing his best to portray it as an anti-fairy tale, but in essence, it is classic cutesy boy meets girl, etc. The episode itself is fairly simple, capably introducing the main characters and manipulating them into their dynamic – Ben and Kate as a new couple who experience love at first sight during a chance meeting atop the Empire State Building, while perpetual wingman Larry and Kate’s frumpy friend Connie (Judy Greer) portray the obligatory sidekicks with requisite humor. Ben and Kate must navigate the first bump in the road when Kate learns that despite his best intensions, Ben hasn’t quite broken up with his current girlfriend. This leads to Larry and Connie scheming to get things back on track in a slightly contrived plot twist.

Both Biggs and Chalke have matured since their early roles. Biggs downplays the nerd angle, while Chalke is less manic than her Scrubs character. This can work to their disadvantage, however, as they run the risk of falling into boring stereotypes. Labine and Greer tend to overshadow them, and it’s not quite clear if that’s the show’s intent. Labine plays Larry like a less eccentric Zach Galifianakis. He borders on too crude, but there is something repulsive yet hilarious about watching him dribble smoothie onto his shirt as he plots how to reunite the star crossed lovers. Greer’s Connie could be slightly less vitriolic, although she does share some highly entertaining scenes with Sarah Wright, who plays the trophy wife that employs Connie to be her nanny and is utterly clueless how to care for her own children.

Hopefully Mad Love will find its own voice and continue to improve on the formulaic nature of its premise by maintaining the dry wit and building on the chemistry between the foursome. The characters are vastly more entertaining than those in Perfect Couples, and the comedy is more organic.