Dollface Mines Humor from the Loneliness of Single Women
Also: Did anybody actually ask for a Mad About You reboot? Anybody at all?
Her, sitting at a pleasant outdoor café: "How are the huevos rancheros?"
Him: "They're pretty good."
Her: "Can I have a bite?"
Him: "I don't love you anymore."
Talk about getting to the point! The first 60 seconds of Hulu's new sitcom Dollface sets the stage for everything to come—a woman's bumbling attempts to reactivate her female friendships after years of single-minded preoccupation with a boyfriend.
Intended as a modern comic spin on Ibsen's A Doll's House, Dollface is funny enough, though it mostly misses the feminist boat. It more closely resembles a little-watched FXX surrealist comedy of sexual manners called Man Seeking Woman, in which clueless characters conversed regularly with their own ids as they plotted blundering romantic strategy.
Kat Dennings, who starred for six seasons as a penniless waitress at a greasy-spoon restaurant in the hilariously potty-mouthed CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, plays Jules, a marketer at a weird and largely undefined company whose leading product is a crystal butt-plug called a kundu stone. (Which, I'm amazed to discover, seems to be entirely fictional.)
She's completely unprepared for her boyfriend's drive-by breakup, and even less so for the realization that the shirt she's wearing, the car they came in, the apartment they live in, and even their beloved dog all belong to him.
Worse yet, she's been catapulted onto a bus ride full of cat ladies bound for their lonely destiny (unless they get off at the Reboundtown stop, where they'll be greeted by a whiny nerd: "I live with my mom. Wanna get married?")
The lesson of all this, the female bus driver warns Jules, is that "relations with other women are sacred and necessary. In today's world, the bonds of sisterhood are all you have to turn to." Easier preached than done: Jules' attempts to reunite with a couple of college girlfriends are rudely snubbed.
"Other people know how to run their lives and take advice and have friends, and for some reason, I can't," Jules broods. But her problems stem most from general timidity rather than gender oppression; there are plenty of men who, like Jules, are bored by small talk, don't mix well and are frustrated that the false intimacy of social media doesn't often morph into the real thing. Believe it or not, Dollface producers, men get lonely too.
But as long as you watch to be entertained rather than woke, you'll be fine. Dennings, if a little less slobby than she was on 2 Broke Girls, is no less funny. Dollface has plenty of scabrous wisecracks about a Kardashianized West L.A. world filled with high-octane air-kissing and nail-baring fights over the brunchtime merits of mimosas vs. bloody marys. And party patter like this: "Your skin is luminous! What are you using? Placenta?"
If Dollface is a modernization of Ibsen, Mad About You is a modernization of … well, Mad About You, NBC's killing-time-between-Seinfeld-and-Friends 1992-1999 sitcom about upscale post-twentysomething yuppies creeping toward what Baby Boomers (and the show's theme song) used to call the show's the Final Frontier—parenthood and middle age.
Now Mad About You, revived by the Spectrum cable and streaming service, is the latest of the television remakes, reboots and regurgitations that dominate TV these days.
In this version, Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are empty-nesters, creeping toward old age and the final Final Frontier. They are as amiable as ever, and the show even has a sense of humor about itself. "I swear to God I didn't recognize them when they walked in," exclaims Hunt in the first scene. "When is the last time we saw them?"
But like a lot of other aging couples, Reiser and Hunt are not quite as funny as they think. The opening episode, in which their 17-year-old daughter Mabel (Abby Quinn), leaves for college—at NYU, five whole blocks from their apartment—often seemed to contain subliminal footage of motionless horses being beaten, particularly in an endlessly repetitive joke about an old movie featuring dogs and spaghetti and kissing.
Mad About You cultists will be enthralled—well, pleased—about the presence of some of the old friends, relatives and sidekicks, including John Pankow and Richard Kind. Not present, alas, is the spacey and inept waitress Ursula, so popular in first go-round that she elevated Lisa Kudrow into a co-starring role on Friends. How long do we have to wait for a reboot of that?