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On The Tube

Take my husband — please!

7/16/2014

TVFinally, after a summer’s worth of awful new sitcoms, I’m laughing again. In “Married,” Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer) are a once-happy couple weighed down by three kids (Thursday, 9 p.m., FX). Russ is frustrated by their nonexistent sex life, and Lina is frustrated by everything else. “Look,” she says, with the kids screaming nearby, “I have to make everyone happy, then at the end of the day I have to make you happy. It’s just too much.” We understand where both of them are coming from, so we gladly suspend disbelief when Lina makes an only-in-a-sitcom suggestion: Russ should get his sexual needs met elsewhere.

It proves to be a great premise because Russ is so comically bad at finding a mistress. He’s a decent guy who’s still in love with his wife but also in thrall to his libido. Encouraged and teased by friends with their own specific sexual backstories (John Hodgman, Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman), he bumbles into a misadventure with a woman who’s both hot and troubled. A mensch at heart, Russ can’t ignore her troubles and see her only as a sex object.

“Satisfaction”

Thursday, 9 p.m. (USA)

Businessman Neil (Matt Passmore) and wife Grace (Stephanie Szostak) are both having a midlife crisis. Neil thinks there must be more to life than working 70 hours a week, so he goes to a Buddhist monk to learn the meaning of life. Grace, meanwhile, becomes tired of bad sex with Neil and hooks up with a male prostitute. Neil discovers her secret and, through various plot twists, begins a double life as a male prostitute himself.

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Yep, the premise for this new drama is absurd. But a story is all in the telling, and “Satisfaction” is told pretty well. It takes plenty of time to characterize Neil and Grace, to the point where we almost understand why they make such extreme choices. Passmore and Szostak also happen to be likable actors who can hold onto our sympathy even while their characters behave very badly.

In between Neil’s visits to the Buddhist monk, we get to watch lots of scenes of good-looking people engaging in wild sex. It’s not a bad way to pass the time while waiting for the meaning of life.

“Hotel Hell”

Monday, 8 p.m. (Fox)

Gordon Ramsay’s hotel-makeover series “Hotel Hell” doesn’t stint on the “hell.” The credit sequence erupts in flames as Ramsay strides through an infernal hallway of flickering neon. In the second-season premiere, he visits a New Mexico hotel that Satan himself might flee in horror. It’s owned by a woman named Cali who inflicts Cher-inspired singing on unsuspecting guests, as well as forcing them to eat incongruous Tuscan food. “I need someone to tell me what I’m doing wrong,” Cali says.

Oh, believe me, someone will. Ramsay marches in with insults and colorful British curses, causing the staff to break down in tears. But by the end of the hour, he has worked his usual miracle.

Believe it or not, hell will be a perfectly pleasant place to spend the rest of the summer. CV     

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist, but he’s been a committed couch potato long before he figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

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