By Hank Stuever
The Washington Post
It must seem awfully unfair to networks and producers when viewers collectively bang on the table and chant about how we want something different on prime time TV and then, when they offer it, we take a sip and immediately spit it out in disgust.
ABC's Mixology, for example: It's indeed different in premise, a half-hour comedy about 10 single people whose stories randomly intersect in a large, trendy bar over the period of one night. But despite an honest attempt at a fresh concoction, the results taste watered-down.
Each episode picks up where the last one left off -- same bar (dreadfully called Mix), same night, same people -- and tries anew to ignite our interest: Will recently dumped Tom (Blake Lee), goaded by his insensitive bro buddies Bruce and Cal (Andrew Santino and Craig Frank), be able to score a phone number from any of the women here, especially Maya (Ginger Gonzaga), a tough-acting attorney?
Can single mom Jessica (Alexis Carra) salvage her evening after the online dating prospect she was here to meet (Adam Campbell as Ron) has vomited into her purse? Why does cocktail waitress Kacey (Vanessa Lengies) keep having sex in the back room with bartender/manager Dominic (Adan Canto), when she knows he doesn't care about her?
Backed by the Ryan Seacrest production machine and created by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (who co-wrote the original Hangover movie), Mixology is heaped high with so-so banter pulled from the big reliable book of gender divides, which means all the characters make broad pronouncements about the opposite sex. As such, "Girls who wear flats are never trying to get laid," one of the men informs his buddies. "The higher the heels, the looser she feels." Meanwhile, another character bemoans the fact that men of the 21st century have gone soft and cry too much; she pines for a Don Draper-type who "would smack me in the mouth."
Though the creators have written in a half-clever device in which the narration swiftly flashes back through each character's birth and awkward childhood, only Lee, Santino and Carra deliver performances necessary for viewers to give a fig about what might happen next.
Mixology's lack of fizz lets in distracting thoughts. Mine were mostly about how TV shows never seem to accurately portray the look, feel and sound of a lively, crowded nightclub. The patrons at Mix can hear one another talking and there are always couches to sit on when the characters need one -- how does this resemble any thriving, upscale singles bar?
And by the third episode, my thoughts were leaning a little more toward the creepy despair of "Hotel California." The show is about latent millennials imprisoned in a never-ending loop of prolonged adolescence. They can pay the tab any time they like, but they can never leave.
Worse, Mixology feels almost like not-so-subliminal advertising. Although there are no product placements, it could easily be a series of webisodes commissioned by -- I don't know -- Grand Marnier or Disaronno or Ketel One or any liquor brand that spends a lot of money in its zeal to make nightclubs look a lot more fun than they generally are. Mixology is almost like a pop-up ad that you're required to watch in order to see the show you've actually clicked on.
Mixology is on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.