TV Preview: NBC's Free Agents Could Be One of the Breakout Hits of the Fall Season

Azaria and Hahn shine in the impressive, provocative new comedy.

By , Columnist
Free Agents opens with the two principles in bed, and their sighs of satisfaction say they’ve just indulged in a healthy round of sex. Sound nice? Not really because from there it’s all downhill for these two.

Recently divorced Alex (Hank Azaria) is new to this relationship business. He cries at the drop of the hat when reminded of his kids and is pitifully inept at shopping for the spiffy clothes he'll need to plunge into the dating scene. To make matters worse, Helen (Kathryn Hahn), his bed partner, works in the same public relations firm as he does. Their colleagues know nothing of Alex and Helen’s night of passion, which is how the pair would like to keep it.

Helen is also hurting; her fiance passed away over a year ago and she still can’t shake his memory. In her apartment, his photos line the walls. She stares at them while dining on frozen dinners and guzzling wine.

So what can be done for this messed up pair? Try as they might to just stay friends, they are drawn to each other in a less than platonic way. Do Alex and Helen belong together? They are deep in denial but you’re going to root for them to become a couple because they are similarly troubled, likable, and best of all real. Where they will go from here is anybody’s guess.

freeagents2.jpgThe Good: The show's writing is a strong mix of humor and pathos and smart, snappy dialogue that never sounds forced.  Free Agents also comes from good stock.

Based on the U.K. series of the same name, it was created by John Enborn (Party Down) and Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland (Malcolm In the Middle). 

Hank Azaria’s last truly impressive role was as the troubled psychiatrist Huff in the 2004 show of the same name. As the perplexed, lovelorn Alex, Azaria may just surpass his work on that show.

Kathryn Hahn (Crossing Jordan) is stunningly good as the melancholy yet tough-as-nails Helen. The supporting cast is also excellent, especially Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who plays Stephen, Alex and Helen’s snarky yet sympathetic boss.

The Not So Good:  How long can Alex and Helen keep each other at arm’s length, at least psychologically? Will they eventually come to turns with their physical and emotional attraction? What then? The trouble with a finely honed, sophisticated pilot like this is that the quality must be maintained in order for the show to build an audience and ultimately succeed. It is the challenge that will serve to make or break Free Agents.

The Prognosis:
Don't be surprised if Free Agents turns out to be one of the breakout hits of the fall season. As long as the writers aren’t afraid to take chances now and then and maintain their characters’ integrity, the show could be around for a while.

Free Agents premieres on Wednesday, September 14 at 10:30pm ET.

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Mindy Peterman is a freelance writer whose focus is on television, movies and pop culture. She has written over one hundred articles for the award winning website and has conducted interviews with producer Peter Asher, psychic-medium John Edward, Greg Grunberg and Bob Guiney from Band…

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