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TV Series Review

It’s safe to say marriage counselors won’t be tuning in to Fox for pointers anytime soon. When a network’s best examples of marital bliss are found on shows such as Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill and The Simpsons, something’s wrong. Add another feeble entry to the list of not-so-admirable matrimonial models with rookie sitcom ’Til Death.

After 20 years of marriage, crotchety high school teacher Eddie Stark (Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett, coming across like a 21st century Ralph Kramden) and his wife Joy (Joely Fisher) have a habit of forgetting their own anniversary. Since their daughter left for college, they admit that they’ve run out of things to say to each other. "But in a good way," adds the romantically challenged Eddie. Indeed, his passionless, pragmatic approach to their union has left Joy dissatisfied more than once, though to her credit she’s remained loving toward her spouse.

Joy’s desire for more romance is rekindled by the arrival of newlywed neighbors Jeff and Steph Woodcock, who put the veterans to shame with their impromptu getaways, public displays of affection and impulsive gift-giving. It’s enough to make Eddie sick. So he sets out to educate Jeff on the gloomy future he faces once the newlywed phase expires. The cynic’s plan routinely backfires, however, forcing him to match the lovebirds’ romantic ways step for step—or at least attempt to.

At times that leads to tender moments, with Eddie trying his best to compensate for his shortcomings. But more often than not, the efforts simply generate more sexual dialogue. Makeup sex. Daytime sex. Oral sex. It comes in all varieties here. So do the inexhaustible jokes about the Woodcocks’ last name and the occasional shot of the young couple tangled in the sheets. An entire episode focused on the wives using sex to manipulate their husbands for new purchases. Another revolved around Steph having an erotic dream about Eddie. Toss in crass language and lax attitudes toward pornography, masturbation, extramarital fantasies and alcoholism—all approved by the spouses. It’s Fox’s typical irreverence at work.

Sure, Jeff and Steph periodically show the importance of communication and keeping romance alive. And the Starks —particularly Joy—can be commended for leaving the option of divorce out of the equation to this point, no matter how loud the arguments. Unfortunately, cheap laughs rule, which means ’Til Death is guilty of the same thing Eddie sarcastically accuses Joy of when she’s willing to swap sex for new patio furniture: "You took something that was beautiful and you made it a commodity. Something to trade. Something dirty."

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Marcus Yoars

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