One of the first premieres of the fall season to grace the television landscape, is U.K. import Free Agents starring TV vet Hank Azaria. The show retains the title and writer of the original British series, and showcases the relationship between Alex (Azaria), and Helen (Kathryn Hahn), who work together at a P.R. firm, and have to deal with the office awkwardness of having had a fling.
The show begins with Alex (a recently divorced dad) and Helen (who’s fiance has died) having a drunken one-night stand. Azaria’s overly emotional character can’t make it through the night without crying, and Helen’s walls are still covered with giant pictures of her and her deceased ex. The next morning at the office their co-workers ridicule Alex for his disheveled state, and try to get him to admit having hooked up with someone. His character is clearly not ready to move on, despite being pushed by his friends who just want him to go out and meet people. To his persistent opposition, Helen attempts to keep their encounter a one-time thing. She does try to be his friend and coach him into getting back on the horse before ultimately realizing that she isn’t any closer to moving on then he is. While on a blind date, Alex blows off his friend to console a frantic Helen, and the two end up together again.
Rounding out the cast is Mo Mandel as single guy Dan, Al Madrigal (The Daily Show) as Gregg, the sketchy married guy, Natasha Leggero as the “Type A” assistant Emma, Joe LeTruglio as Walter, and Anthony Head as Stephen. Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), brings an arrogant but funny and reputable presence to the workplace environment. He is also the only actor to transfer from the original U.K. version. The cast has some solid performers and a good mix of known and unknown, but as of the pilot nothing really stands out, and the show will have to evolve quickly to survive a crowded fall landscape.
Azaria is a fantastic and accomplished comedic actor, but the fate of Free Agents will depend on whether or not he can carry a series that doesn’t really seem to be offering anything new. The track-record of British imports is mixed at best, and it is still too soon to know if this one will be the next Office or Coupling. The series, yet another “will they or won’t they workplace comedy”, will need to kick it up several notches to keep my attention, but did earn the benefit of the doubt for at least another week. Free Agents airs Wednesdays on NBC.