Tammy Lynn Michaels Shines in Mediocre “Committed”

The cast of CommittedTess with one of her charges

Last week NBC premiered its new, mid-season sitcom Committed, with out lesbian Tammy Lynn Michaels in a supporting role–and so far, she’s the best thing about it.

The product of creators/executive producers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (Roseanne, Murphy Brown and Ellen), Committed is a comedy about mismatched couple Nate (Josh Cooke) and Marni (Jennifer Finnigan), and their friends, including Nate’s record store co-worker Bowie (Darius McCrary), Marni’s wheelchair-bound friend Todd (RonReaco Lee), her best friend Tess (Michaels), and a dying clown who lives in Marni’s closet (Tom Poston).

The show’s premiere on Tuesday, January 4th, introduced Nate and Marni as they meet cute when they mistakenly believe the other to be their blind date. The second episode, airing two days later, followed the two as they get to know each other better, and the next few episodes deal with the intersection of their friends and lives.

Nate and Marni are quirky characters: Nate is an obsessive-compulsive genuis working in a record store (in the pilot episode, he gets upset at dinner on their blind date when another patron blocks the fire exit for too long) and Marni is, well, more than a little loopy (“Was it odd, or were you odd?” Tess asks Marni, when Marni comments that her interaction with Nate was a little odd).

While Marni and Nate’s quirkiness mostly works for them by setting them slightly apart from the average sitcom character, there is a lot of over-acting (Cooke in particular needs to dial it down) and Finnigan’s high-pitched voice is a little grating after awhile. The laugh track, meanwhile, is so loud and jarring it might as well be the show’s other lead character–played by a really demanding actor who insists on appearing in every scene and stepping on everyone’s lines.

Todd and the dying clown are semi-interesting–Todd has just the right amount of smirky cheerfulness, and the dying clown’s matter-of-fact moroseness is amusing, at least for now–but Bowie doesn’t leave much of an impression.

Tammy Lynn Michaels, however, is excellent as Marni’s best friend Tess, a sardonic and semi-irresponsible (heterosexual) nanny who is only slightly less bitchy than Nicole Julian, Michaels’s career-making Queen of Mean cheerleader in the WB teen drama Popular. Unfortunately, Tess appears in only a few minutes of each episode, but her scenes are usually among the show’s funniest given Michaels’s spot-on delivery of Tess’s one-liners.

The show saves itself from the sitcom scrap-heap by interspersing its more predictable moments with funnier ones. It also improves when it veers away from Nate and Marni’s relationship towards more offbeat storylines, like Tess’s feud with the mailman (whom she tells “I’m going to pop you like bubble wrap!”), and the adversarial basketball game between Todd and Nate, in which Nate overdoes the trash-talking and Bowie tells Nate “I’m going to hell just for knowing you.”

Committed’s first two episodes have garnered respectable ratings, but whether the sitcom will survive as it settles into its Tuesday night time slot remains to be seen. For viewers looking for lesbian and bi women on network TV, it’s at least worth checking out–if only to see what Tess will say next.

Committed airs on Tuesdays at 9:30pm on NBC; get more info at the official site

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