Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Loop - Season 1 Is NOT Season 2 Or Quite Worth It!

The Good: Funny, Quirky, Excellent cast, Decent characters
The Bad: Standard sitcom plots, Only 7 episodes, Light DVD extras!
The Basics: A comedy I liked more in its second season starts out as a pretty sad DVD outing with just not enough to recommend it.

If you've never heard of The Loop, it's not surprising. This television series was a midseason replacement in the winter (March) of 2006, was renewed for a second season that was abruptly cut short in July of 2007 and appears to be a project that is dead in the water. I suspect if the producers knew that it was going to be axed prematurely, they would have waited and released The Loop - The Complete Series instead. Had that been the case, my rating would have been higher and a firm recommend. As it is, it is not.

In its first season of seven paltry episodes, The Loop tries to be a series that balances the personal and professional lives of a new college grad. As a result, the plots are somewhat banal and overdone. It is, on the plot front, a formulaic a comedy as, say, ’Til Death. But were it not for that, this would be a show I was enthusiastically recommending. Let me explain.

Sam Sullivan has recently graduated from college and he finds himself working for TransAlliance Airways. He is a suit and he works directly with the head of the company, Russ, and his quirky board. While Sam finds his workdays a strange collection of non-sequitors and disturbing requests, he returns home to his friends who do not have steady jobs or work priorities. As a result, the average plot involves exploring Sam trying to juggle the two halves of his life. He has a presentation to make, but the night before he gets completely drunk with his friends. Sam tries to reconnect with a woman who seems eager for him, but his boss continues to call on him to do more work-related assignments.

It's that type of banal, typical and overdone television plot that sinks much of The Loop - Season 1. On DVD the episodes show their weakness with no DVD extras to speak of (there's one featurette) and the entire seven-episode run crammed onto one disc. The reason I find myself lamenting this set is that the second season is truly wonderful. Almost completely abandoned are the non-work elements in Sam's life and the show becomes a quirky sitcom about a cog in the machine working for a major airline. The situations are zany, consistently funny and utilize the strength of the cast far better than this set. But then, that's not this set. Instead, this does have the episodes trying to balance Sam between the two and it makes for something very typical.

What is funny in The Loop as presented in this set is the delivery of the characters. Russ is an eccentric boss who is rich and crazy and wonderful, Sam finds himself in awkward positions and his brother Sully is the archetypal slacker with no ambition who drains him some. While the characters in the first season are not truly extraordinary, they are interesting. The main characters include:

Sam Sullivan - A cog in the machine. He is used to getting drunk with his friends and dating, but finds working for TransAlliance Airways to drain him of most of his time and his ability to pursue the crush of his life, Piper,

Sully - Sam's lazy brother who takes on such things as dogsitting to appear to earn money and make an effort at doing something,

Meryl - Sam's senior coworker who comes to slowly value his ideas and opinions,

Piper - The love interest for Sam, she is the archetypal blonde beauty who Sam pines for but never seems to have enough time for given his job. She has a love of the band the Dandy Warhols and becomes determined to see them in concert,

Lizzy - A friend of Piper and Sam's, she's a partier and a virtual nonentity,

Darcy - Sam's assistant, she is smarter and better at his job than he is and she finds herself constantly thwarted by his lack of ambition and ability,

and Russ - The boss. He is a veteran of the business and used to succeeding. He sees potential in Sam and takes suggestions from him frequently enough to make Meryl worried. He makes fast, swift decisions that makes him appear to be a good boss, but is completely indifferent to the lives of his workers and has quirks that make him fun to watch.

Actually, Russ is the only reason to watch the first season of The Loop. Russ is quirky, outrageous with the things he says and just plain weird. He reminds me some of Jimmy James from NewsRadio. Russ is played by Philip Baker Hall, the esteemed and dignified actor from such heavy dramas as Hard Eight. It's hard to believe that Hall could play such a weird character as the comedically blunt Russ, but he pulls it off, in part because of his legacy of dignity. Because we don't expect Hall to be zany, it makes Russ appear even more crazy and it provides Phillip Baker Hall with a truly unique part to add to his resume.

In many ways, Mimi Rogers is given the short end of the stick with her part of Meryl. Because the first season is obsessed with creating the push-pull on Sam, she is seldom given enough to do and fails to shine in this set.

Finally, Bret Harrison is charged with carrying the show and he is convincing as Sam. Sam's somewhat uncompelling conflict is handled well by Harrison who illustrates he has a decent sense of comic timing. He delivers his lines well, but most of the humor that comes from Sam comes from the lines as opposed to the delivery. This makes Harrison a decent vessel, if not a great actor.

But it's not enough. I wish it were because I truly enjoy the series and the second season, but with just seven episodes and only one little bonus on DVD, this set is hard to justify. When it comes down under $10.00 on clearance, it might have enough value to pick up for the viewing. I mean, Phillip Baker Hall is worth it, but it's just not there now.

For other works by Pam Brady or Will Gluck, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Friends With Benefits
Easy A
Fired Up!
South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut


For other television reviews, please be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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