FX’s ‘Married,’ With Judy Greer and Nat Faxon, Could Find Just the Right Balance of Bitter and Sweet

FX's 'Married,' With Judy Greer and Nat Faxon, Could Find Just the Right Balance of Bitter and Sweet
FX's 'Married,' With Judy Greer and Nat Faxon, Could Find Just the Right Balance of Bitter and Sweet

I’m pretty sure I could make ratings for FX’s “Married,” which debuts July 17, spike with four simple words: “Jenny Slate nude scene.” Granted the scene in question won’t air until mid-August and it’s a long shot, possibly using a body double, but still — anything to help “Married” rise above the pack.

“Married,” you see, is a show I want to catch on, and not just because Judy Greer, who plays the female half of the central couple, is long overdue for a project in which she’s not the heroine’s best friend or a mute and unseen ape. The commercials, which FX has been airing approximately every four seconds since June, don’t cast the show in the best light, and neither does the pilot, which lays out a dully predictable conflict between a horny husband (Nat Faxon) and a wife who’s too tired for sex. Did you know men are dogs who always want to get laid, and women just want to curl up with a magazine? Let the comedy commence!

But over the course of the four episodes FX sent out in advance — in fact, as soon as that lowballing first one is over — “Married” blossoms into a surprisingly tender portrait of a man and a woman trying to make room for their own relationship in a house crammed full of children, dogs, fish and an ever-growing stack of unpaid bills. “Married” is unusually, and commendably, forthright about issues of household finances: In the third episode, their daughter is turned away from the orthodontist because they owe too much money. And it’s got a killer supporting cast, which includes John Hodgman, Regina Hall, Paul Reiser and Michaela Watkins. 

Russ (Faxon) and Lina (Greer), who married young and have three kids, the eldest a teenage girl, are squared off against their friends AJ (Brett Gelman), who’s financially successful and recently divorced, and Jess (Slate), a new mom who’s been unexpectedly thrown back into the workforce after her “sugar daddy” husband ran out of money. In the second episode, after AJ balks at attending his ex-wife’s engagement party, Russ and Lina split off and each spends the night getting a different variety of crazy: Russ and AJ engage a couple of prostitutes for some sexless play in AJ’s former house, which is still littered with the detritus of his former marriage, and Lina and Jess go dancing at a club with the younger man Jess has been cheating on her husband with. By the time they get home, both exhilarated and exhausted, Russ and Lina are considerably happier to go back to their boring lives. It’s a show where Lina can tell Russ “I don’t hate you — I just hate my life, and my life is you” and make it sound like a fond almost-compliment.

Both “Married” and “You’re the Worst,” the staunchly grating sitcom about two perpetually commitment-phobic Angelenos (Chris Geere and Aya Cash) dipping their toes in relationship-hood, are self-consciously raunchy, sometimes in ways that feel like a teenage swearing at the dinner table to see how their parents react. “You’re the Worst’s” pilot includes a handful of sex acts that are surprisingly explicit for cable — both Geere and Cash look perfectly nice with their clothes off, if you’re wondering — and “Married’s” fourth episode includes a scene where Russ elaborates on his preferred forms of pornography at great length while he’s attempting to produce a sperm sample. And in both cases, the raunchiness feels like a half-measure, an attempt to be “edgy” in a context that won’t really permit it. (Shorter this paragraph: They’re not “Girls.”) But when that would-be edginess rubs against the shows’ underlying sweetness, as it does often on “Married” and much more occasionally on “You’re the Worst,” something pretty interesting starts to happen. “Married” is definitely a show that’s worth keeping an eye on, and as for “You’re the Worst” — like I said, they both look good naked.

“Married” airs Thursdays at 10pm on FX.

“You’re the Worst” airs Thursdays at 10:30pm on FX.

More reviews of “Married”

James Poniewozik, Time

“Married” is not trying to be “The Cosby Show,” but if it keeps on this track it could become a show that strikes a balance between making you wince and making you laugh. Maybe hard enough to pee a little.

Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

People say that getting married and having kids will change you. And it does — kind of. But “Married” gets to the hardest thing about marriage: Your life may be different, but you’re still the same person you were before you put that ring on.

Molly Eichel, A.V. Club

The show tends to keeps its focus on Russ, but Lina is never the shrill harpy that hampers the comedic potential of Claire Dunphy and countless sitcom moms. It’s all brought together by the easy chemistry between Faxon and Greer, in which looks of exasperation common to any sitcom are undercut by looks of true affection.

Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

At times, Russ and Lina are too set on being miserable, and their reluctance to change or be more active will turn some viewers off. I laughed out loud a few times, but this is not the lighthearted, fast-paced show I imagined from the preview.

Jessica Rawden, Cinema Blend

Greer and Faxon are both excellent comedic actors; they just weren’t given the right material with Married and their work suffers because of it. The first few episodes of a new program don’t always set the stage for what is to come down the road. If Russ and Lina can manage a little motivation, maybe their frustrating and uncommunicative relationship can lead to real laughs down the road.

Isaac Feldberg, We Got This Covered

The simplest way to describe FX’s new comedy hopeful, “Married,” is that it wants to be what “Louie” is to self-absorbed, perpetually single a-holes, for self-absorbed, miserably married a-holes. Its apparent message early on is that the idea of an ideal marriage is a straight-up myth — married life is a drag, simply put.

Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

It may not be fair to compare but “You’re the Worst” is a show about awful people finding happiness; “Married” is a show about awful people complaining about their awful lives. 

More reviews of “You’re the Worst”

Molly Eichel, A.V. Club

Cash and Geere pull off unlikable well: Their characters are terrible people, but at least if they’re together (in rather sexually explicit ways), they won’t make anyone else miserable.

Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

Thanks to Falk’s stealthy writing and Cash and Geere’s effortless chemistry, the two leads become so unappealing that I find them fascinating and can’t look away. They are brutally honest, but in the second episode, you can see quick flashes in their eyes when something has cut a little too deep. 

Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

One of the reasons that “You’re the Worst” works so well is that we buy this relationship instantly. Geere and Cash have chemistry. Two awful people separately can make a pretty interesting couple together.

Hank Steuver, Washington Post

Unlike watching the people in “Married” grope around in search of a consistent tone, “You’re the Worst” immediately finds what all comedies hope for: character chemistry and a certain zing to the writing, transcending its naughtiest nature with a disarming taste of sweetness. 

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