|The Loop: Season One (2006)
Starring: Bret Harrison, Eric Christian Olsen, Amanda Loncar, Sarah Mason, Mimi Rogers, Philip Baker Hall, Joy Osmanski
Anyone who’s turned on their TV to watch a sitcom in recent years is already aware of this, but let’s state it here for the record: we’re living in the era of the single-camera comedy. All you have to do is check out NBC’s Thursday night line-up to see living proof: every member of their powerhouse foursome (“My Name Is Earl,” “The Office,” “Scrubs” and “30 Rock”) is a single-camera show. I’m not actually going to take the time to research this, but I’m fairly certain that you don’t even need both hands to count off the number of sitcoms on the Big Three networks that are still filmed before a studio audience. Fox has been comparatively slow to ease into the single-camera comedy as their standard, but with “The Loop” they’ve got a definite winner. If you didn’t catch the first season of the series when it aired last year, you missed out on the best non-animated comedy on Fox. Fortunately, however, they’ve decided to provide you with the chance to play catch-up before Season Two premieres.
Remember “Orange County,” the flick where Colin Hanks’ character tried to get into Stanford, but his guidance counselor sent the wrong transcripts, and only the drug-addled antics of his stoner older brother (played by Jack Black) could save the day? “The Loop” is unquestionably its spiritual cousin, following a strikingly similar character – complete with slacker brother – as he enters the real world upon college graduation. And we can’t be the only ones who noticed the similarity, given that the creators of “The Loop” cast as its lead a guy who was actually in “Orange County.”
Sam Sullivan (Bret Harrison) is in his 20s, and is the youngest and newest executive at a major airline. He’s trying to figure out the right balance between being a upstanding businessman and maintaining the party lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed. This isn’t what you’d call easy, since his roommates include the aforementioned slacker brother (Eric Christian Olsen), as well as a bartender (Sarah Mason), both of whom are always ready to toss back an alcoholic beverage, whether it’s Happy Hour or not. Making it all the more difficult is Sam’s third roommate, Piper (Amanda Locar), on whom he’s been harboring an unrequited crush for many moons. You know how it is when you’re crushing on someone: you’ll hang out with them whenever you’re given the opportunity. Fortunately, Sam’s got an incredibly efficient assistant (Joy Osmanski) who’s always got his back, even though she also always has to mention that she graduated from M.I.T. and is employed way beneath her ability. Even so, it’s an effort for Sam to live up to the standards of his gruff and brusque boss, Russ (Philip Baker Hall); indeed, if one of the higher-ups (Mimi Rogers) wasn’t always willing to assist him – mostly because she wants to sleep with him in the worst way – it’s hard to imagine that he’d still be with the firm.
Any one of these seven episodes of “The Loop” is funnier than just about every twenty-something-starring comedy to hit theaters in the last three or four years. To be fair, the plots aren’t generally much more elaborate. There’s a general formula to most episodes: (1) Sam’s got a major project at work occurring at the same time as something in his personal life; (2) there’s a scheduling conflict between the two and (3) by episode’s end, the work problem is solved, but Sam’s personal life is the same shambles it’s always been. Sure, it’s formulaic, but the writing is great, and several of the performances are worthy of an Emmy. Rogers has created a character who could well have inspired the Hall & Oates song, “Maneater,” and if Hall’s role plays like a 50/50 blend of Drs. Cox and Kelso from “Scrubs,” he’s still diving into it with the enthusiasm of a pig into a trough. Sam’s roommates tend to be a little too cookie-cutter at times, but Harrison plays Sam’s naiveté spot-on, particularly in the scenes where his panic is downright palpable.
“The Loop” might not have gotten the best possible DVD treatment (see below), but it’s good of Fox to slide it into stores -- you can imagine it being a dorm room staple as the college party boys head toward graduation. “See that, dude? That’s totally gonna be me: partying all night, and coasting by the seat of my pants into a big-ass paycheck!”
Yeah, probably not, but at least they can have a good laugh while they pretend.Special Features: Well, at the very least, the special features match the limited amount of effort that clearly went into this set. The back of the box proudly announces that purchasers will receive not only all seven Season 1 episodes, but also a big, fat seven-minute-long featurette entitled “Thesis: Work vs. Play.” Wow. How incredibly underwhelming. Smells like someone over at Fox wanted to give the show a bit of extra hype before the premiere of Season Two, but couldn’t be bothered to actually do any real work to put together a decent DVD set. It’s a shame, too; this series deserves so much better.