It’s probably safe to say these are the final thoughts on a series, and not merely thoughts on a completed season. With only six episodes, it’s hardly even a season. But even if a season 2 never sees the light of day, Bent entertained while it lasted, a light, heartfelt little comedy that wasn’t the funniest or best written show, but a solid comedy with some great potential.
Bent is (was? is? could’ve been? all all appropriate) about Pete Riggins, a laid back contractor who gets hired by Alex Meyers (Amanda Peet), a recently-divorced lawyer who lives with her daughter Frankie (Joey King). Their story is a will-they, won’t-they, but for the entire main cast, it’s about people trying to rebuild their lives. Pete was a well-known contractor before his gambling addiction both ruined his engagement and led to some other reputation-destroying events, and Alex is coming to terms with her philandering, white-collar criminal husband.
Even members of the secondary cast are trying to either rebuild their lives or redefine themselves. Pete’s crew consists of a recovering alcoholic (played hilariously and surprisingly low-key by JB Smoove), a green carpenter’s apprentice, and a semi-legal Russian. There’s also Pete’s roommate father, the emotionally damaged, has-been-never-was actor James (none other than Jeffrey Tambor). Oh, and Screwsie (Margo Harshman), Alex’s friend, whose a more even-keeled version of the loose party girl.
The show does a good job at blending familiar comedy story lines and archetypal characters into a fun little ensemble comedy without feeling forced or stale, but the writers don’t have a grip on how to balance the cast, or spread them out. There were scenes with some combination of Pete, Alex, and his crew, or Pete and his crew, or Pete’s father and Pete. For most of the six episodes, Frankie is all but invisible, and seems to stop missing her father after the second episode (and for some reason, everyone completely forgets about his background existence).
I thought the show floundered in the third and fourth episodes when introducing Ben, Alex’s boyfriend. Shows like this trying to turn six episodes into something else need a hook, and like most modern comedies, there’s a romance on that hook. Having Alex with a boyfriend gives the show some time to dilly dally – it’s just that while Ben is a self-aware, confident character all on his own, we know he can only last on the show for so long, and that we’re really not supposed to like him.
But the show redeems itself with two fantastic final episodes, and thankfully, leaves out the big moment of Alex and Pete sucking face to uplifting music. It gives the background cast something to do, and ignites some much-needed romance between a couple of the characters on the side – and allowed the finale to have some lip-locking, in case an audience tuned into a show that wasn’t advertised and burned off in three weeks.
If it happens to come back for a second season, adding Jeffrey Tambor’s character to the contracting crew seems like the next obvious move – the material of him schlepping around on side jobs, and failing as an over-confident, self-possessed character felt lazy and played through all episodes, and felt much more natural when he was interacting with the rest of the members of the cast.
In the end, Bent is just another slightly flawed comedy with a lot of premise that NBC is going to bury in favor of another season of The Office. It’s unfortunate – maybe if it was given 13 episodes and half a chance, the show would’ve had some time to show some creative muscle, instead of writing what feel like six really good spec scripts to be writing samples. We’ll likely never know what was meant to happen between Pete and Alex, but for six episodes, Bent was a harmless half-hour of well-intentioned comedy that let the chemistry of the cast provide most of the entertainment.
Other thoughts on Bent:
– Why was everyone divorced on that show? Man, modern adult life on television is depressing in the 21st century.
– Pete’s gambling addiction was another odd-fitting story line, though it did bring the funniest joke of the series: a LA Clippers fan, who was driven to depression and excessive gambling by their decades of awful teams (which is a true story).
– Amanda Peet was probably the most unfunny character on the show, but the moments where she was allowed to play Alex a bit looser felt like the right direction to take her character moving forward. There were times Alex felt a bit stiff, even for the straight woman she was supposed to be.
– we had an episode with a work party, one with sex issues, another with divorced old people doing it…. lots of very familiar plot lines.
– Clem’s booty heat, and Gary’s back fat. Two hilarious butt jokes, for two different characters, in one episode. Mission accomplished.
– David Walton, who plays Pete, just signed up for an untitled CBS pilot. Another sign this show probably never returns. Womp womp.