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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New comedy doesn't raise the bar

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Blake Lee and Ginger Gonzaga as Tom and Maya.

RON BATZDORFF / ABC Enlarge Image

Blake Lee and Ginger Gonzaga as Tom and Maya.

Some cocktail concoctions require shaking. For others, only a gentle stir is necessary.

ABC's new set-in-a-singles'-bar comedy, Mixology, would probably benefit from a little of both. It contains a lot of appealing ingredients, but a sampling of early episodes suggests that a bit more gentle blending might have been useful to make this one fully ready for consumption.

Mixology arrives as a mid-season addition built on a somewhat intriguing premise: all 13 episodes take place in the course of a single night at a trendy Manhattan nightclub and follow the efforts of 10 very different characters who are in pursuit of love, companionship or perhaps a less-committed kind of lustful hookup.

Each episode carries the name of a couple of characters -- tonight's pilot focuses on Tom & Maya, while next week's instalment zeroes in on Liv & Ron -- but the multi-layered storyline follows many different groupings and interactions as the minutes tick away in the crowded bar.

Shot in single-camera style, Mixology gives an intimate look at the motivations and strategies that drive the various characters as they hunt for whatever it is that will make them consider the evening a success. When it works, it delivers some pretty special moments; unfortunately, those satisfying snippets are matched by passages that feel crude, clumsy and clunky.

The roster of lovelorn patrons at the bar (which, appropriately, is called Mix) includes Tom (Blake Lee), a sad-sack type who has just been dumped by his fiancée, and pals Bruce and Cal (Andrew Santino, Craig Frank), who are eager to school their friend in the ways of wing-manning after he's been out of the dating scene for almost a decade.

Then there's Maya (Ginger Gonzaga), a ruthless sports attorney with a knack for making the men in her life (including high-profile, highly paid pro athletes) weep, and her less-aggressive girlfriend Liv (Kate Simses), who's recently engaged but having second thoughts.

And just arriving at Mix is Jessica (Alexis Carra), an attractive single mom who's a shade older than the rest of the bar-prowling crowd ("I feel like Helen Mirren," she moans as she surveys the room). Meanwhile, waitress Kacey (Vanessa Lengies) is trying find a few free moments to break it off with bartender Dominic (Adam Canto) -- who, it turns out, is more than OK with the idea, since he can't even remember her name. More characters are introduced and, inevitably, entangled as the evening wears on.

In other words, it's just another night in just another bar -- or would be, if the banter in the average saloon was as articulate and occasionally amusing as what series creators Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover) have provided for this bunch.

At its best, Mixology is fresh, fun and funny; there are, however, too many moments in which the humour becomes crude and sexist.

Structured as it is, as a single-night-in-a-season adventure, there's little reason to think of Mixology beyond this 13-episode run, so the best approach is probably to sit down, relax, have a drink and enjoy the people-watching for as long as it lasts. No sense wishing for a long-term relationship, but maybe there'll be something in the later episodes that will leave viewers feeling like they got lucky when they tuned this one in.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 D8

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