'Bent' premiere review: Does this good sitcom deserve better treatment from its network?

Bent

Image Credit: Vivian Zink/NBC

A loopy romantic comedy with sparks between its stars, Bent made its premiere in back-to-back episodes on Wednesday night, and proved to be one of the better new shows NBC has fielded recently. Amanda Peet plays a single mom who wants some renovations done on her house, and hires a scruffy contractor who offers the right price and an intriguing attitude. Pete is played by David Walton, who, on the basis of this and the undervalued sitcom Perfect Couples, may have only about three notes to play as a comic performer, but he executes them with the ruthless ingenuity of a punk rocker. 

By contrast, Peet, who’s excellent in dramas, quickly loosens up her comedy rhythms to play uptight without being prissy. Her character, Alex, is an understandably guarded woman, who, we’ll see in the coming weeks, will be won over — somewhat — by Pete.

The supporting cast in Bent is also terrific. Jeffrey Tambor takes what could have been a squirmy role — an aging, hammy actor; father to Pete — and turns it into a full-blown, surprising, endearing performance. J.B. Smoove is as funny here as he was on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and, lo and behold, Jesse Plemons exerts his laid-back Friday Night Lights charm.

All of which leads me to wonder: Why the hell is NBC trying to kill Bent before it has a chance to draw its first breaths? Promotions, ads? Almost nil. And by scheduling it opposite Modern Family and burning through its six episodes two at a time each week, the network isn’t giving Bent much time to build an audience.

I’m not trying to oversell this show; it’s nothing like an instant classic. But it’s well-acted, it has a distinctive point of view, and it does without the infantile use of vulgar private-parts words that substitute for punchlines in a lot of recent new sitcoms (a trend I’ll call the Whitney Cummings Vagina Effect).

You tell me if you watched it: Is Bent something you’ll look at again?

Twitter: @kentucker

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