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TV Review: ‘The Unicorn’ Is the Rare Genuinely Sweet Network Comedy

No single man has it all: a good job, positive familial relationships, lack of commitment issues and the desire to honestly date. Anyone who has all these things is what CBS would call “The Unicorn,” the subject of their new sitcom. The show features a charming view of dating after a loss. It helps that its lead, Walton Goggins, has long been deserving of his own show and proves it. Surrounded by a talented supporting cast, there’s hope to be had from this new CBS half-hour sitcom.

Wade (Goggins) has settled into a lackadaisical routine in the year following his wife’s death. He and his daughters are still staying in and enjoying countless frozen meals from well-wishers. The dogs are on the kitchen counter and the house has devolved to “family friendly Grey Gardens,” as one of Wade’s friends notices. Four of his friends stage an intervention. Wade needs to get back into the dating world. A widower who hasn’t been sleeping around, knows how to be in a successful relationship, and has a beautiful family is a rarity on dating apps. Upon signing up for one, Wade realizes he really is quite a catch.

Dating isn’t easy after a loss, but it is a necessary step to go through after cycles of grief. “The Unicorn” takes place at an interesting point in Wade’s life. He’ll always miss his wife, but he has a good handle on his emotions. What trips him up about dating is the pity. He wants to be treated like a normal person, rather than someone that people have to make sure is okay. He feels people treating him with kid gloves, and he wants the gloves to come off. It’s an interesting perspective that deserves to be explored more over the course of one season.

Walton Goggins has long been a standout TV star. His work on “Justified” earned him his first Emmy nomination and solidified him as the go-to guy for eccentric people on the fringes. Roles in “Sons of Anarchy,” “Vice Principals” and, most recently, “The Righteous Gemstones” have allowed Goggins to portray a wide array of scene stealing characters. As the lead of “The Unicorn,” he dials down his tendency to make hairpin changes and outbursts at a given moment. Instead, his Wade comes off as a really good guy who has done enough mending following his wife’s death to explore dating. Though this is a quieter role, he carries the show with the same level of charisma he’s brought to others.

The rest of the cast boasts promise, but doesn’t quite deliver in episode one. Michaela Watkins creates the most memorable supporting performance of the group as Delia, a meddling friend who provides the biggest push to Wade. As her husband, Rob Coddrey acts much more restrained, in a positive way. Maya Lynne Robinson and Omar Benson Miller are also good as another friendly couple that seems in over their heads with four kids. The four friends develop a nice foundation for a friendship. Yet, it still feels a bit ill-defined. How long have they been friends and what makes them such good friends? One hopes future episodes will explore these roots a bit further. Still, this seems to be the best direction for “The Unicorn” as it goes through its first season.

The basic DNA of the show gives me confidence that this could turn into something good. Star Walton Goggins fits well and is surrounded by talented actors loaded with potential. The premise is nice and easy to sell. Yet, it hasn’t found its X-factor. The set-up is fine. However, the show hasn’t come up with its comic voice. It comes with some genuine chuckles, but no belly laughs. Everything goes down easy and feels enjoyable. Unfortunately, it never feels compelling, making sure that we tune in week after week. Still, the pilot was strong enough to warrant watching further.

“The Unicorn” premieres on CBS on Thursday, September 26th. One episode was screened for review.

GRADE: (★)

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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman

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