“Love Bites,” the NBC show that airs its fourth episode of the summer season on Thursday (all available on Hulu), had a long and tumultuous ride to prime time. The series, from Cindy Chupack (“Sex and the City,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”) had originally been scheduled to debut last fall, but production developments pushed it back to mid-season, and after a series of casting changes and the departure of Chupack, the show bounced to mid-season and, finally, to the summer burn-off season, where it will almost certainly fade into obscurity. Many of you may have run across it inadvertently while flipping the channels and stuck around because of the familiar cast, only to lose touch as the series progressed from vignette to vignette.
It’s a cute program, and after the first episode, I’d already begun to add it to my mental list of Cancelled Too Soon shows (it’s not officially cancelled, but it will be). The quality of the vignettes began to fall by the third episode, but it’s still comfortably amusing, if only because it allows us to see some familiar television actors in different situations. It’s also perfect as a summer show; there are no running storylines and only three recurring characters (played by Constance Zimmer, Greg Grunberg, and Becki Newton), who bounce around these slightly higher quality He’s Just Not That Into You vignettes as both featured players or bit parts in other people’s stories. There’s no time to get attached to anyone, so the inevitable cancellation won’t be much of a bummer.
Each episode is broken into three vignettes, revolving around a relationship issue (think of it as something akin to television friendly Paris je T’aime), and each — so far — involves mostly different characters. There’s one about a man trying to compete with his girlfriend’s vibrator; another about an older couple who are visiting their gay son; one about a character played by Greg Grunberg who ends up next to his Freebie Five number one, Jennifer Love Hewitt (as herself), on an airplane, and another about a woman who lies and says she’s a virgin to pick up a guy. Granted, none of these sounds particularly compelling in their descriptions, and they’re mostly just frothy televisiual diversions, but it’s cute. There’s really no better word to describe it.
The best part, really, is the cast: Donald Faison is in one called “The Vanishing Ninja,” about a guy who deletes his number from his date’s phone after a one night stand (that one also stars Jasmine from “Parenthood”). Bret Harrison appears in one, Jeffrey Tambor in another. Francis Conroy (“Six Feet Under”) plays the wife of Kurtwood Smith (the dad in “That 70’s Show”), and even Krystyn Ritter, Laura Prepon, Krista Allen, Craig Robinson, and Michelle Trachtenberg appear. Plus, Greg Grunberg is all over this thing, and “Life is Simply Better with More Greg Grunberg” (that’s the most popular fortune cookie message in the United States).
Look: It’s a small-screen “chick-flick,” slightly clever, occasionally whimsical, and never profound. The vignettes are mostly hit or miss, and even when they hit, they don’t hit particularly hard. There’s no real reason to seek it out, but if you’re pecking around Hulu desperate for some light entertainment, “Love Bites” may briefly satiate the need. Plus, where else are you going to see Donald Faison right now?