The breezy basic cable channels — the USA Network and TNT — have a lock on light, bro-friendly legal shows with Franklin and Bash and Suits (although, Suits dabbles in substance-like terrain from time to time). And honestly, the last damn thing the world needs is another legal show (we’ve already got How to Get Away with Murder this season, and it knows NOTHING about the actual law), but I cannot help but to root for Benched.
Benched is another USA Network outing, and it, too, looks like a light, comedic take mixed with some typical sitcom relationship drama, but this is a show that I badly want to succeed because of the people involved, three of whom have done outstanding comedic work in their careers, but have never been properly recognized for it.
The most notable is Eliza Coupe, who did manage to get three seasons on the perennially low-rated Happy Endings and that should have made her a huge star. Hell, her two seasons on Scrubs and Scrubs 2.0 should have made her a star. She has impeccable comic timing, and blends meanness, sarcasm, and likability together better than any other sitcom actress around.
Another is Jay Harrington, another poor bastard who can’t keep a job. He’s had stints on Desperate Housewives, Private Practice and Hot in Cleveland, but if you know him and love him, it’s because of Better off Ted, one of the best cancelled-too-soon sitcoms of the last decade. He’s got a Maxwell Smart thing going for him: He can deftly combine intelligence and obliviousness together with ease.
The other reason I’m rooting for Benched is Michaela Watkins, who is producing and writing the show. Watkins, a former SNLer who Lorne Michaels quickly kicked to the curb, is also just coming off of another cancelled series, Trophy Wife, where she was wonderful in a way that sneaked up on us over the course of the season.
Benched is like one of those situations, similar to Community’s Charley Koontz joining another CSI, where it’s almost OK if the show isn’t great, as long as it succeeds. These are people for whom we’ve been rooting for years, and though I am sure they’re all doing fine in their lives, I feel like they could use the kind of big break a mainstream sitcom on the USA Network could afford them.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that Benched looks like a fun, harmless way to waste 22 minutes, and who knows, it could be the next Night Court.
There’s no trailer for the show yet, which premieres on October 28th, but there’s plenty of clips, including one introducing Eliza Coupe and Jay Harrington’s characters.
Oh, and Oscar Nunez from The Office is in it, too.