USA is trying its hand with sitcoms when the new series SIRENS premieres Thursday evening. The episode sent to critics, and that is currently streaming free on the network’s website, is listed as #1.04 “Rachel McAdams Topless.” I’m not sure that’s going to be the first episode that airs, but it should give us a taste of not only the tone of the series, but who the characters are as well.
At the center of SIRENS are three EMTs. Johnny (Michael Mosley, Pan Am, The Proposal) is having trouble defining his relationship with on-again, off-again girlfriend Theresa (Jessica McNamee, Packed to the Rafters). Or are they dating? It’s not clear. Hank (Kevin Daniels, Modern Family, Ladder 49), Johnny’s best friend, is gay and black, though neither is really played up as a character element in the first episode, with Hank’s role being to deliver the best lines and support Johnny. They are joined by nervous, naïve newbie Brian (Kevin Bigley, Game Change).
Now, that doesn’t sound like a recipe for a particularly original show, and I admit, Brian, especially, is a familiar type. Butdoesn’t try for anything fancy. It’s about a group of guys hanging out together, getting into absurd situations, and having way too personal conversations. They have good chemistry, and are enjoyable.
For instance, in “Rachel McAdams Topless,” they try to erase a patient’s computer, only to be scarred by disturbing porn. Then they end up talking about porn and sex for the most of the half hour, as other things they stumble upon also hinge on that topic. So it’s a lot of raunchy, honest talking between buddies.
I happen to find this very funny. I know it’s certainly not everyone’s type of humor, but it’s far better than gross vomit and poop gags. SIRENS rises or falls on how real each of these three men seem and whether viewers will care about them or not. Half an hour in, I do care. They seem nice and are trying their best, never mean-spirited or cruel.
The relationship between Johnny and Theresa is good, too. He swears to her that he’s given up porn for her, a lie of course, which she quickly discovers. But not knowing she knows, he and his buddies try to prevent her from finding out, stumbling on her own embarrassing secrets in the process. Theresa and Johnny learn a little about one another, and it helps them appreciate their partner more.
First and foremost, this makes “Rachel McAdams Topless” a comedy of errors, with one-liners smartly tying into later twists in the story, running gags rather than just a series of punchlines. At times, the situations feel staged, of course, and in this style of narrative, that’s unavoidable. But the energy put off by the cast is infectious, and it keeps moving forward at a pleasing pace.
I’m not sure Theresa is all that authentic a character, possibly more of a guy’s dream of what a woman should be than real. Or maybe she’s someone who just bucks trends and doesn’t conform to what’s currently publicly acceptable to say, a liberated, modern woman. At times, she’s more masculine than Johnny, a relatively new arrangement in society that can still seem novel on television when done right, as it is here.
But SIRENS doesn’t ask us to overthink this stuff. It’s just a goofy comedy designed to make us laugh. I wish it aired on HBO or Showtime so it could actually back up the topics of conversation with visuals; hearing and hinting at things that are never shown make it tamer than it should be. But its sensibilities do seem appropriate to a TBS or basic cable format, so it should work for USA, known mostly for fluffy dramas.
SIRENS premieres this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on USA.