'Mad Love' review: Lovely cast, slightly maddening show
1.) That anyone, in 2011, is on a first-name basis with an elevator attendant at the Empire State Building
2.) That the Empire State Building would allow people to regularly jump out of elevators stopped 2 feet above floor level
3.) That there are four New Yorkers who would ever frequent the observation deck at the Empire State Building
Yes, these are the romantic prerequisites for the "Sleepless in Seattle"/"How I Met Your Mother" hybrid that introduces Ben (Biggs) to Kate (Chalke) in the pilot episode. She leaves her hat, he forgets his phone, and there they are... two presumably employed adults falling in love, in the middle of the day, on the 86th floor of a tourist destination in their own town.
It's not an instant romance for the pair, though. They go through a series of misunderstandings in the first episode that drive them apart and back into each other's arms, but the gist is clear. This is their love story.
Also in attendance are their respective best friends, Larry (Labine) and Connie (Greer). Their relationship will take a bit longer to blossom, but as we're assured through Larry's out-of-place narration, they'll get there eventually as well.
"Mad Love" is not a bad show, but, judging from its first outing, it's not immediately deserving of the caliber of actors it managed to secure for its primary quartet. Labine and Greer are worlds funnier than the dialogue they're spouting. Greer, who's been tossed between TV projects and supporting film roles throughout her wildly underrated career, is especially funny working as a nanny for a woman afraid to touch her own children.
Biggs and Chalke are more comfortable in this territory. The former evokes his awkward, late '90s rom-com roots, while the latter exists in a perpetual state of blissful shock at the serendipity of TV love. She spends much of her screen time staring dopily at Biggs, as as if someone on the crew is dangling a puppy just behind his shoulder.
Like "Gavin & Stacey," a British comedy that quite clearly influenced this work, the primary couple here is not the most compelling part of the series, and even though they're trumped by their own best friends, it's actually two smaller players who earn the biggest laughs in the premiere.
Ben's outgoing girlfriend Erin ( Rachel Boston) confidently misuses idioms -- she's tired of been taking for granite, OK? -- and will be sorely missed if she doesn't make any follow-up appearances. There's also Tiffany ( Sarah Write), Connie's child-phobic boss and unlikely voice of reason, who we could watch suspiciously leer at her babies for a solid 22 minutes.
On the whole, "Mad Love" is worth keeping tabs on for cast alone. But if it follows in the footsteps of some other CBS hits with less-than-auspicious pilots (Ahem, "Big Bang Theory") it could also become destination viewing on its own merits.