The premise for The Unicorn was listed as recent widower re-enters the dating world. Umm…wait a minute, didn’t I see that last year? It was called Single Parents or something? Okay, let’s go with cancellation.
Except I didn’t realize it was Walton Goggins as the widower. I absolutely loved him as Boyd Crowder on Justified. Sure, he’s been in lots of other shows, but none that I watched regularly. One of the elements in Justified that I loved was his comedic moments — playing straight while the world crashed around him. So I was definitely willing to give him a shot.
Then, in passing, my wife mentioned having watched the premiere even though she watches almost nothing regularly, and not being too impressed with the show. I still went for it, with my expectations low.
But I like him. I like seeing him in the new show, I like him on screen. He’s not completely goofy or over the top. And even his kids mostly work — Ruby Jay as the older sister Grace and Makenzie Moss as the younger sister Natalie.
The episode spends a bit of time getting to the premise of the show which is Wade starting to date again. His wife has been gone a year, he’s working all the time or spending time with the kids, mostly eating frozen meals that people gave them after his wife died. And he’s down to the last frozen meal. His wacky friends help him prepare an online profile as a six foot cuddler who is widowed. So his phone blows up — he’s a unicorn. A single guy, devoted father, no emotional divorce baggage or lots of singlehood issues, looking to date. With a job. Until he realizes that they want to date him because he’s widowed. He feels like he’s using his wife’s death to get new dates, so he goes back to setting his profile to simply single instead of widowed. And his first date goes awkward fast.
Yet here’s the thing. Most scenes in sitcoms would make that awkward scene be incredibly embarrassing. Beyond awkward, almost geeky, painful even to watch. The show didn’t do that. They played it straight, it’s resolved easily enough with some side humour thrown in, and the date is “saved” through honesty and transparency. Leading to a fantastic set of lines where she’s inviting him over for sex, he realizes he’s not ready yet, and she notes that he’s really sweet, etc. Then she tries to rationalize maybe he’s having a mid-life crisis and perhaps he drives a Porsche. Nope, he says, a dirty pickup. For her? “You’re so hot.” Not raucous laughter, sure, but the scene and the joke work.
Him with his family? Awesome. But the friends are a disaster. Couple one is Rob Corddry (white guy trying to be hip) and Michaela Watkins (Casual) as a bit weird neurotic. Couple two is Omar Benson Miller (Walter from CSI: Miami) who is a bit hip and yet lovable and Maya Lynne Robinson is a cliche as a frazzled mother of 4 kids. They’re barely tolerable to watch, and no real humour in any of them, but at least Goggins gets to play it innocently straight with them.
In the end, my wife is right. Not that great and I’ll predict cancellation. Yet I’ll be watching until it is cancelled. Cuz it’s Goggins.