‘I’ ON CULTURE
Looking around for anything amusing on TV, something I find necessary these days, I discovered a sitcom called The Unicorn. Wade (Walton Goggins) is a relatively recently widowed father of two who runs a fairly successful business. But his friends feel he is just marching in place, not moving ahead with his life.
What does that mean? They feel he has to go out and date, a clear euphemism for having sex. He resists. He seems content to stay where he is, although after a year, all the food local women have provided for his family finally runs out. To friends Ben (Omar Miller) and Michelle (Maya Lynne Robinson), a couple with four children who were particularly close to the late wife, he should start looking around. To his other close friends Forrest (Rob Corddry) and Delia (Michaela Watkins), a couple demonstrating their total love by quips putting each other down, he is a challenge. Complicating the issue are his two daughters Grace (Ruby Jay) and Natalie (Mackenzie Moss). Natalie looks up with soulful eyes saying, “You’re going to replace mommy,” and then adds she plans to throw up.
Wade is told that he’s “a unicorn.” That means he’s every girl’s dream: has a job, is reasonably attractive and to top it off, “you’ve only had sex with one woman in 20 years. It’s like you’re really just pre-owned.” Wade discovers this is true. Within two minutes after he puts his profile on a dating web, he has more than a dozen women after him… including Michelle’s sister. The series centers on Wade’s attempts at dating (remember, that’s a euphemism). And, as expected in a comedy series, things constantly go wrong. The friends constantly intrude; the women are either inappropriate or have their own baggage. And, of course, the quest must be a failure or the whole premise of the show collapses.
One thing I enjoyed was that this show is the ultimate anti-Hallmark show. For those who do not watch that network, just about every show (aside from The Golden Girls) ends with a kiss or a wedding ceremony. Sex seems barely to exist. Since the leads of both sexes are generally attractive (although in the nicest way) you are expected to believe that we are sort of back a century ago when girls wearing white at the altar was not just a kind of false symbolism. On one show (part of one of their series) the lead female was in danger and her boyfriend of over two years volunteered to stay over, in a guest room of course.
The Unicorn makes it quite clear that dating will lead to sex. Several episodes directly touch on it. The cast constantly talks about it, as well as the other adults’ issues in their own relationships. And the fact that Wade’s oldest daughter is starting to date and beginning to experience some of the more elemental aspects, provides a nice counter-point to some of the adult action.
And the show is funny. Goggins, who has had a successful career playing villains and all kinds of crazy guys, is the straight man for this show. One reason it works so well is that he comes across as earnest and eventually willing to try out the things his friends want him to do. He is a caring father, a hard worker and a decent man. So in most episodes, it’s the rest of the cast that gets a chance to do the funny lines and then get his reaction. The cast is good. Jay is really good as the older daughter, and Corddry and Watkins get off some wonderful zingers, particularly aimed at each other. Yes, most of the fun from the regular supporting cast comes from, shall we put it nicely, clearly not reasonable behavior, but it is very funny.
The different women Wade meets are generally wacky. One is willing to do pity sex, another won’t go forward because she feels Wade will never really forget his first wife. (Why would a woman want a man who could casually change years of feelings so easily?) Another who he worries might be wanting more than he is ready to give turns out to also be seeing another man. And so forth.
This is a funny show. Not a great one, and it is self-limiting: if Wade finds the right woman the whole premise ends. But in an era when so little is really funny, this is a show you just might like.