July 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Married' takes risks while surveying the frustrations of family life

Skylar Gray, left, Raevan Lee Hanan, Rachael Eggleston, Judy Greer and Nat Faxon star in FX's 'Married.' (Prashant Gupta / FX)

Snappy, sexy and surprisingly smart, “Married” is a sitcom about family that you might not want all your family to see.

Over the course of the first four episodes, the show tackles sexual deprivation, vasectomies, encouraged abortion, the drag of familial responsibility and supposed maturity, the misogyny of frat boys, phone sex in a thrift store and kids’ braces. “Married” doesn’t just push the boundaries of cable, it pretty much ignores them.

Luckily it does so to great and funny effect. Built around a superb cast, the show, created by Andrew Gurland, manages to examine the pains and frustrations of marriage and family while still holding true to a core affection. Its absurd situations are built on authentic concerns that resonate through the laughs.

Oscar-winning (“The Descendants”) screenwriter Nat Faxon stars as Russ, a sporadically employed graphic designer and father of three young girls with wife Lina (Livonia’s own Judy Greer). Lina has been a stay-at-home mom, but the family’s rocky finances have her considering work again.

Problem is, even as Lina is approaching 40, she’s not sure what she wants to do. Russ, meanwhile, seems content to skateboard through life.

Russ’ best female friend is Jess (Jenny Slate), nowhere near ready for adulthood even though she married a much older music executive (Paul Reiser) and had a boy with him. Equally conflicted is their friend AJ (Brett Gelman) a well-off guy whose recent divorce hangs over everything like a dark cloud.

And then there’s Russ’ sometime employer Bernie (John Hodgman), a certified dork who nevertheless seems to have it all.

The show centers on Russ and Lina but spirals off in all directions. Tonight’s premiere episode revolves around Lina’s sexual indifference to Russ (she’d rather read vampire novels), which pushes him to entertain the idea of acquiring a mistress. Instead, he acquires a puppy named after ... oh, never mind, you’d have to see it and it’s probably not appropriate for a newspaper anyway.

The skill of the actors here is key to the show’s success. Faxon is one of those relaxed everydudes, Greer’s timing as always is impeccable, and they have the relaxed chemistry a long marriage should bring even as they both mourn bygone youth.

Slate, whose film “Obvious Child” was a recent critical sensation, is innately sassy, and Hodgman (the long-running resident expert on “The Daily Show”) has the best milquetoast persona around. There seems to be a bit of improvising going on, but Gurland’s hilariously inappropriate/appropriate story lines propel the show.

You get the feeling “Married” will be willing to dive into ever more dangerous waters as it progresses while still keeping the laughs coming. This is a solid, risky show with loads of potential. Keep it coming.



10 p.m. Thursdays