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"Gary Unmarried" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy Gary Unmarried: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com Gary Unmarried: Season One (2008-09)
Show & DVD Details

Repeat Writers: Ed Yeager (also creator), Ira Ungerleider, Susan McMartin, Bill Daly, Ed Brown, Scott Parkin, Mark Gross, Julie Bean, Ric Swartzlander / Directors: James Burrows (19 episodes), Ted Wass (pilot)

Regular Cast: Jay Mohr (Gary Brooks), Paula Marshall (Allison Brooks), Jaime King (Vanessa Flood), Ryan Malgarini (Tom Brooks), Kathryn Newton (Louise Brooks), Al Madrigal (Dennis Lopez), Ed Begley, Jr. (Dr. Walter Krandall)

Recurring Characters: Max Gail (Jack Brooks), Rob Riggle (Mitch), Kathleen Rose Perkins (Miss Joan Plummer), Martin Mull (Charlie), Jane Curtin (Connie), Charles Henry Wyson (Parker Flood), Senyo Amoaku a.k.a. D.N.A. (Ira), Christopher Birt (Stuart), Ashley Farley (Danielle)

Notable Guest Stars: Laura Marano (Louise Brooks), David Denman (Ronnie Mitchell), Bre Blair (Stephanie), Ian Gomez (Paulie), Jessica Collins (Leslie), Jean Louisa Kelly (Beth), Brian Palermo (Jim), Cerina Vincent (Miss St. James), Brooke Newton (Marjorie), Aimee Garcia (Anna Lopez), Susan Leslie (Miss Peters), Matthew Lillard (Taylor), Spencer Garrett (Edward), Francois Chau (Bobby Kim), Monica Parales (Ella Kim), Kevin Sorbo (Seven)

Running Time: 425 Minutes (20 episodes) / Rating: TV-14-DLS
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
DVD Release Date: February 9, 2010; Season 1 Airdates: September 24, 2008 - May 20, 2009
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Clear Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover

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The traditional sitcom has largely disappeared in recent years. "Friends" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" signed off ceremoniously mid-decade and nothing since them has earned the same kind of attention with familiar comforts. Laugh tracks and establishing shots have vanished in favor of single-camera and heavily-improvised shows that creatively mask their jokes.

The one place where the situational comedy continues to live is at CBS. The network has found success with fairly broad, old-fashioned programs like "Two and a Half Men",
"The New Adventures of Old Christine", "How I Met Your Mother", and "The Big Bang Theory." It is also home to this review's subject, "Gary Unmarried".

"Gary" joins an established class of sitcoms, those centering on a chubby, sarcastic schlub of a guy with a fit, attractive wife. One doesn't need to watch much of these shows to know what to expect and while they're usually not very good, America likes them. (They're as syndicatable as any recent TV production.) The long-running "King of Queens" set the standard and probably remains the most enjoyable of the lot, which also includes things like "According to Jim", "George Lopez", and "Still Standing."

As its title suggests, "Gary" mixes up the formula by having its schlub (played by '90s "Saturday Night Live" featured performer Jay Mohr) be unmarried, or rather divorced. That gives him both an attractive ex-wife (Paula Marshall) and the promise of pretty young love interests (beginning with Jaime King). Now while the thinking viewer's gut reaction to the chubby hubby genre may be that funny fatties don't get the lovely lean ladies in real life, Jay Mohr's own marriage to leggy 31-year-old TV knockout Nikki Cox stands as this show's unspoken defense.

Those inclined to play a "Gary Unmarried" drinking game should be sure to include sightings of the box for board game Mall Madness and the legs of the giraffe on the right arm tattoo of Gary Brooks (Jay Mohr). This shot includes both. You're welcome. If you think that getting divorced puts an end to bowling alley bickering, then this show has a lot to teach you.

The owner of a house painting business, Gary is adjusting to divorced life after 15 years of marriage. He regularly trades barbs with his ex, Allison, while they pass the two kids they share custody of back and forth. Gary, of course, often fumbles in the parenting department advising precocious son Tommy (Ryan Malgarini) and conscientious daughter Louise (Kathryn Newton).

The show supplements the strained family comedy (laughs are supposed to flow from the four people dividing time between two homes) with looks at Gary and Allison getting back into the single pool and the world of dating. The first scene establishes Gary's lucky find in the seemingly perfect, understanding bartender Vanessa (Jaime King), who has a young son of her own (rarely mentioned though he may be). Allison meanwhile finds the anti-Gary in their learned, green marriage counselor Walter Krandall (Ed Begley, Jr.), who predictably is the target of old age jokes.

That's the kind of humor "Gary" opts for. There is nothing too subtle. The exes volley many a zinger at one another, without any lasting sting to preclude the all too likely prospect of reunion. Sex jokes abound; we're repeatedly reminded that Gary lasts just two minutes in bed. Gary is clueless when it comes to women, kids, protocol, and feelings. Allison is an ice queen. The show is most inventive and amusing when it explores the dynamics and politics of the whole family rather than singling out an individual relationship.

Unmarried though he may be, Gary (Jay Mohr) is definitely still a family man via the oft-questionable parenting he provides daughter Louise (Kathryn Newton) and son Tommy (Ryan Malgarini). Nearly every scene that features Gary's pothead father Jack (Max Gail) reminds us that this hippie Grandpa loves the reefer but suffers from its side effects.

The production was apparently aware that it wasn't hitting all its marks early on, as barely halfway into the 20-episode debut season, Gary and Allison have their love interests dropped. King's Vanessa is downgraded to friend and disappears without a thought
while Begley's Krandall has more of an exit crafted and twice returns with "special guest star" status. It's not clear why these fine characters were shown the door so quickly. One can guess that the writers were afraid of threatening the leads' single status that television so values.

The ones who gain attention in their absence do not really offer improvement. After the reductions, we get to see a little more of Gary's best friend and fellow painter Dennis (Al Madrigal). While the daffy pal is no less diverting than anything else here, he does feel like a token piece of diversity casting and a simple third-party adult sounding board for Gary. The latter could have been achieved in Gary's father Jack (Max Gail), but instead that recurring character is stupidly one-note, an aged hippie pothead who forgets things.

"Gary Unmarried" is noticeably restrained in the guest stars department. Its best work there is enlisting underappreciated near-legends of TV Martin Mull and Jane Curtin to play Allison's parents in two episodes. Some other faces you might recognize in Season 1 belong to David Denman (Pam's now-forgotten ex-fiancé warehouse worker on "The Office"), Jean Louisa Kelly (reminding us that "Yes, Dear" is in fact off the air), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy of the theatrical Scooby-Doo movies), and Kevin Sorbo ('90s TV Hercules). On the rise Marine-turned-comedian Rob Riggle appears in the season's final two episodes as Gary's half-brother Mitch, who apparently remains a houseguest for the first four episodes of Season 2.

Season 2 is presently winding down with just a few more episodes of "Gary" set to air before a new sitcom takes its post-"Old Christine" Wednesday night timeslot. That makes the timing of ABC/Disney's The Complete First Season DVD, available Tuesday, unusual. But also logical, because with all the shows released to disc in the weeks surrounding the fall TV season's launch, a modestly-watched program like "Gary" that lacks a devout fan following is sure to get lost in the shuffle. I'm skeptical that even in the dead of winter this sitcom will make much retail noise. A mediocre product in a bygone mold released at a time when DVD sales are shrinking and the studios push customers to move to Blu-ray... How could it not turn big profits, especially when given precedence over one of the studio's demanded sitcoms, "Boy Meets World", which languishes while customers choose between affordable bootlegs and outrageously priced second-hand copies of discontinued, unfinished sets.

Anyhow, synopses of the first twenty installments of "Gary Unmarried" follow.

Allison (Paula Marshall) "helps" Gary get over his back pain in the show's second episode. Marriage counselor Dr. Walter Krandall (Ed Begley, Jr.) listens as Gary tries to convince him he's not still in love with Gary's ex-wife, i.e. Krandall's fiancée.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (21:33) (Originally aired September 24, 2008)
Besides learning that Allison is engaged to their marriage counselor, Gary and his new girlfriend learn of each other's families.

2. Gary Gets Boundaries (21:20) (Originally aired October 1, 2008)
Gary struggles with back pain while trying to juggle his new relationship with his broken family.

3. Gary Marries Off His Ex (21:02) (Originally aired October 8, 2008)
Gary has to prove he's not in love with Allison when his comments give Walter pause.

While trying to use his possession of a racy Allison photo to keep the pool table, Gary finds himself locked outside his own house. Gary is surprised to learn the one bar patron he's bonded with (David Denman) is his girlfriend's ex-husband. Gary is not comforted by the sight of his ex-wife (Paula Marshall) and his girlfriend (Jaime King) bonding in the bleachers of Louise's game.

4. Gary Gets His Stuff Back (21:29) (Originally aired October 15, 2008)
While finally unpacking and organizing his new house, Gary finds leverage to use for holding onto his beloved pool table.

5. Gary Breaks Up His Ex-Wife & Girlfriend (21:02) (Originally aired October 22, 2008)
Gary is bothered to find Allison and Vanessa spending so much time together.

6. Gary Meets the Gang (21:03) (Originally aired November 5, 2008)
Gary and Allison stress over meeting their respective lovers' friends.

7. Gary and Allison's Restaurant (20:54) (Originally aired November 12, 2008)
To convince Vanessa his life doesn't still revolve around Allison, Gary invites her to a romantic dinner, which just so happens to be at "his and Allison's restaurant" on their anniversary.

A leaf-covered Gary and frazzled Allison try to get their stories straight while playing still marrieds for friends in "Gary and Allison Brooks." Allison's father Charlie (Martin Mull) appreciates Gary's idea of Thanksgiving afternoon with alcohol from a bottle and feet on furniture. Louise (Kathryn Newton) and Tommy (Ryan Malgarini) get their parents' attention by holding Michael Bolton and Bruce Springsteen tickets above a paper shredder.

Disc 2

8. Gary and Allison Brooks (21:26) (Originally aired November 19, 2008)
Gary and Allison pretend they're still married while attending a friend couple's vow renewal ceremony.

9. Gary Gives Thanks (21:25) (Originally aired November 26, 2008)
Thanksgiving becomes a competition as Gary and Allison vie for family holiday hosting duties.

10. Gary Goes First (21:03) (Originally aired December 10, 2008)
Gary buys Springsteen tickets for a day before Allison's first planned family concert, inciting a race of the exes to be part of their kids' "first" milestones.

Father (Jay Mohr) and son (Ryan Malgarini) bond over paintball in "Gary Toughens Up Tom." Justin's younger sister Anna (Aimee Garcia) corners Gary against the fridge, prepared to fulfill her long-held fantasies.

11. Gary Toughens Up Tom (21:11) (Originally aired December 17, 2008)
After Tommy gets a C- in gym class, Gary tries to figure out why his son hasn't inherited his athletic interests.

12. Gary Dates Louise's Teacher (20:54) (Originally aired January 14, 2009)
To prove to Louise he's not superficial like the boys in her class, Gary winds up scheduling dates with two of her teachers on the same night.

13. Gary Moves Back In (21:24) (Originally aired January 21, 2009)
When Allison floods his house, Gary spends the night in their formerly shared home. Tommy dates a new girl.

14. Gary and Dennis' Sister (21:05) (Originally aired February 11, 2009)
Gary enters into a relationship with Dennis' younger sister (Aimee Garcia), which she quickly makes more serious than he.

Allison's once-successful businessman brother (Matthew Lillard) now just needs to be held. Charlie, Gary, and Tommy are amazed by how far Louise's first golf club swing drives the ball. For luck, Gary blows on the dice his half-brother Mitch (Rob Riggle) is about to roll on an impromptu Las Vegas casino trip.

Disc 3

15. Gary's Ex-Brother-In-Law (20:31) (Originally aired February 18, 2009)
Getting audited by the IRS, Gary reluctantly turns to Allison's hotshot brother Taylor (guest Matthew Lillard), who flies in from New York with a whole bunch of personal problems.

16. Gary Uses His Veto (21:29) (Originally aired March 11, 2009)
After discovering Louise's natural excellence at golf, Gary and his ex-father-in-law (Martin Mull) plot to prevent Allison from using her yearly veto on the sport.

17. Gary Hooks Up Allison (21:15) (Originally aired March 18, 2009)
Fed up with Allison being at his house all the time,
Gary tries to set her up with a new boyfriend.

18. Gary and the Trophy (21:27) (Originally aired April 8, 2009)
Gary needs Allison to play in his bowling league championship against the defending champs. Tommy gets caught up in the fierce painters/floorers rivalry when he starts spending time with the daughter of the opposing team's captain.

19. Gary and His Half-Brother (21:29) (Originally aired May 6, 2009)
Gary's half-brother marine Mitch (Rob Riggle) returns from Afghanistan and entertains the kids away from responsibility and to Las Vegas.

20. Gary Fixes Allison's Garbage Disposal (21:28) (Originally aired May 20, 2009)
Gary and Allison complicate life by sleeping together.

Anything for a laugh..."Gary Unmarried" moves three adults (Dr. Krandall, Gary, and Allison) into a child-sized play house for a scene of sight comedy. Television shows lose the commercials from their broadcasts, but this brazen promotion for KFC's Kentucky Grilled Chicken remains intact as part of Season 1's penultimate episode.


The picture is practically perfect in this DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. While lacking the detail of high-def broadcasts, the show nonetheless looks great. It is afforded sufficient breathing room even as these three discs steer clear of DVD-9 capacity. The sitcom may still be an exercise in frugality, but today's ones are just about always dressed, lit, and shot nicely, a truth "Gary" regularly proves.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are less satisfying, but only for one reason: the transitional and theme music is mixed much too loudly in comparison to the rest of the show. The volume soars and bass booms at greatest length on the end credits, which therefore beg to be skipped. This is largely a non-issue because the track's most common components -- dialogue and audience laughter -- are consistent and crisp.

Jay Mohr holds up a papier-mâché likeness of Maya Angelou, while Kathryn Newton and guest Cerina Vincent get hair touch-ups and Paula Marshall looks at her script in behind-the-scenes video from featurette "The Chemistry of Comedy." Ed Begley, Jr. shows us his humble energy-efficient abode in "Planet Begley."


There are four bonus features, all of which appear on Disc 3.

"The Chemistry of Comedy" (15:10) is a good making-of featurette. It serves up behind-the-scenes footage and also allows producers, regular cast members, and guest Matthew Lillard to discuss the show and what makes it tick. It's surprisingly substantial and revealing, not promotional, making it a true and welcome rarity among a new sitcom's DVD supplements.

"Planet Begley" (5:38) provides a forum for Ed Begley, Jr. and his ex-castmates to celebrate and send up the actor's eco-friendly lifestyle. The majority of this short has Begley giving us a tour of his home and its energy-efficient designs. Begley's interesting enough not to mind this feature's irrelevance.

Jay Mohr couldn't possibly be talking about Dasani water on his Tuesday set tour. Well, he could be, but the label and his brand name mention get censored. It's not clear why the whole original 7-member cast assembled and faced the camera, but Jay Mohr's belly-exposing display gets it briefly preserved in the blooper reel "Gary Unhinged." Gary's friend and fellow painter Dennis (Al Madrigal) share a moment on the pop-up pizza box of Disc 3's main menu.

"Tuesday on the Set with Jay" (5:17) follows Jay Mohr backstage and around permanent and temporary sets. In between show clips,
the actor riffs on the leaf-blowing fan operator, his little dog, and an assortment of props.

Finally, we get "Gary Unhinged: Bloopers" (2:15), which Mohr dominates with his goofing around, Christopher Walken impression, and audience patronizing.

Disc One loads with trailers for Alice in Wonderland, "Make It or Break It": Volume One, and "Greek": Chapter Four. Disc Three contains an unusually light Sneak Peeks menu, holding only an Old Dogs trailer and a Blu-ray promo.

The DVD's clever main menus animate character pop-ups in the otherwise empty pizza box of the show's title screen. Secondary menus give us a simplified (static but still scored) version of that concept.

As has become the norm for sitcom season sets, "Gary" is packaged in a standard DVD keepcase that, at least initially is topped by a slipcover. Episode and extra titles show through on the interior (the case is clear) and inserts promote Blu-ray, "Gary Unmarried" on CBS and "Army Wives" on DVD.

Although it launched the series, Gary's relationship with the seemingly perfect Vanessa (Jaime King) was deemed unimportant enough to just dismiss off-screen. The first season of "Gary Unmarried" ends on something of a cliffhanger as Allison and Gary have mixed feelings about getting back in bed together three times.


"Gary Unmarried" is far from cutting edge comedy. Its one twist on a well-worn genre is that the central couple is newly divorced and remaining on close terms. That's not really enough to remove the feeling that
you've either seen or avoided this thing before. The wisecracking manchild, the sensible yet shrewish woman, the unappealingly cheeky kids... It's one broad set-up after another and chances are you won't be nearly as amused as the vocal warmed-up crowd watching live apparently is.

This sitcom offers a textbook definition of "middle-of-the-road." It's familiar, predictable, and easy to watch. Though not challenging, smart, or remotely meaningful, it is occasionally diverting and mildly funny. The simple writing could be enjoyed by kids if the show wasn't full of adult content unfit for them. Even if you're clinging along with CBS to the old TV comedy format, you're more likely to enjoy renting the show, watching it online or catching it on the air than to rewatch enough to justify the $30 or so you'd have to plop down to own it.

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Reviewed February 7, 2010.

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