It's going to be hard to follow up the dour tones of The Chicago Code, but the new comedy Traffic Light is going to give it a shot. Before I was given an advanced copy of this show, I had no idea what it was or what to expect. The pilot, though funny, left me with mixed feelings about the series as a whole. It is entirely possible that this show finds an audience immediately and becomes one of the next big hits, or it could fall by the wayside and be replaced by Fall.
Mike (David Denman, The Office), Adam (Nelson Franklin, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), and Ethan (Kris Marshall, Love Actually) have been best friends since college and are all at different points in their respective relationships. Ethan, the eternal bachelor, is quite content sleeping around with a different girl every three weeks, Adam has just taken the next step with his current girlfriend and moved in with her, and Mike is married with a two year old child. Together these three try to navigate the ups and downs of life, marriage, and hooking up while, of course, hilarity ensues.
Where Traffic Light keeps me interested is in the comedy. These three guys are hilarious together thanks to a great deal of witty dialog and the occasional instance of physical comedy. Though the "three guys who haven't grown up since college" angle has been done before, this is a bit more tame. These characters aren't getting drunk every night and toilet paper-ing houses, instead they make stupid mistakes and go about solving them in a slightly childish manner. This is even more enjoyable thanks to a wonderful female cast that is just as goofy as the leading men. Mike and his wife have a terrific chemistry on screen and look like they are having a lot of fun. Adam and his girlfriend (following the goofy looking guy with unbelievably attractive girl formula) have slightly less on screen chemistry but are still fun to watch. Ethan...well...he won't have a consistent love interest for a while, but I think his antics may become the highlight of the series if it sticks around.
What makes me question the staying power of Traffic Light is its delivery. Most of the dialog, in fitting with the title, takes place remotely as the characters talk to each other via hands free cell phones in their cars. I understand the need for this in order to keep the title relevant beyond the speech at the end of the pilot, but it forces the cast to constantly be yelling their dialog in order to maintain realism. Alongside that, the stories aren't all that interesting for a 30 minute show. I was able to watch the first three episodes in the series and each story involves someone getting in trouble with their spouse and spending the rest of the episode trying to fix the situation. Relationships may be about making mistakes and learning lessons but they can also be fun, and Traffic Light, so far, fails to get that point across.
The first few episodes of Traffic Light make me think of it as yellow, to keep with the underlying metaphor. It's a comfortable show with some great comedy and decent performances, but the series lacks depth. I never found myself connecting with any of these characters and I didn't really care if or how they got out of their individual "dog houses" in each episode. It is good for quite a few laughs, however, so you might want to give it a chance. Check it out Tuesday (February 8th) at 9:30 pm on FOX.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016, Watertown, NY