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TV Series Review

The subject of divorce isn't exactly a knee-slapper. Case in point, the CBS sitcom Gary Unmarried. It revolves around Gary Brooks (Jay Mohr), a likable lug getting used to the rigors of single life after splitting from his wife of 15 years, Allison (Paula Marshall).

These exes share a town, a couple of kids and a yen for caustic one-liners. They also might share a hint of something else. Viewers are led to believe there may be a smoldering ember that, properly fanned, could reunite the couple. Gary slams Allison for being boring. She natters on about his immaturity and lack of, er, stamina. But when they hit rough patches, Gary and Allison seek each other out, share a drink and walk away feeling better. They spend more time onscreen together than June and Ward Cleaver. Had they exhibited that sort of trust and affection while they wore each other's rings, they might be happily married today. That's the assessment of their marriage counselor, Dr. Walter Krandall (Ed Begley Jr.), who has since become Allison's new fiancé. Now Krandall's counsel to Gary is, "Back the h--- off."

But don't mistake Gary Unmarried for funny, thought-provoking television. Take away the actors' smiles and smirks, and these barbs sound dark and cruel. The comedy is crass, with double entendres too provocative to describe here. And that's before characters get drunk, which they do regularly. Allison gets blasted after a night on the town, and tells Gary she'd kiss him if she hadn't "just thrown up in my mouth." Gary's young son tries to abscond with bottles of beer and, at one point, serves as bartender. Allison's dad compliments Gary's new bachelor pad, telling him it "smells like a bar," while Gary's father apparently smokes marijuana.

Perhaps the show's most egregious flaw is how it deals with divorce and the covenant of marriage. "I didn't take a vow," Gary says in one episode, "I took a deal." The show's creators suggest that's what wedlock is—a deal best voided when it's no longer fun. Meanwhile, a divorcée tells Gary, "Divorce is awesome!," which Gary parrots to Allison's father when her dad ponders his own exit strategy. Indeed, to save a marriage is to intrude on one's liberation. Krandall prepares to attend a gathering of marriage counsel- ors, inspiring Gary to ask, "Who is going to stay behind and pump false hope into people who have no business staying married?"

"Not everyone is a two-parent household family with two parents working," Mohr told The Boston Herald. "Not everyone is the Huxtables." True. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. But while divorce—far more painful than this sitcom implies—may be a harsh reality in our society, that doesn't mean it should be celebrated or exploited to set up vulgar punch lines.

Episodes Reviewed: Oct. 22, Nov. 5, 12, 19, 26, 2008


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