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Review: 'Marry Me' is funny, but can it stand out from the crowd?

"Marry Me," a new sitcom from "Happy Endings" creator David Caspe, is the latest in this fall's batch of romantic comedies to hit the screen.

Marry Me "Marry Me" premieres tonight at 9 on NBC.
Credit: Greg Gaynes, NBC

"Marry Me," a new sitcom from "Happy Endings" creator David Caspe, is the latest in this fall's batch of romantic comedies to hit the screen. Its subject matter is a little different from the others. Instead of two people meeting and falling in love, as in "A to Z" or "Manhattan Love Story," or two polar opposites learning to like each other, as in "Selfie," it's about a couple (Annie and Jake, as played by Casey Wilson and Ken Marino) that's been together for six years, and tries to move on to the next step together. Of course, next steps are always a little fraught with complications, as Annie and Jake discover when it takes them a few tries to get even the proposal part done right, and it looks like "Marry Me" plans to find its subject matter as a more traditional ensemble comedy with a romance at its center (read our interview with Marino on the subject here).

Where the show might suffer is in its tone — "Happy Endings" was completely surreal, with almost no connection to reality (in a good way!), and "Marry Me" shares a lot of its DNA. Wilson's Annie has some traits in common with the character she played on "Happy Endings" — she's funny and ranty and a little obsessed about her marital status.

Fans of the earlier show will no doubt want to catch this one, but it's almost a little disappointing when the show comes back down to earth, which it generally does with Marino's character, who's fairly normal. Or possibly a little boring? It's hard to name his distinguishing characteristics, which is a shame, since Marino is generally a pretty engaging comic actor. Relegating him to straight man to Wilson's hijinks keeps the show from getting too crazy, but also misses the opportunity to let Marino let loose. Hopefully in future episodes, Jake will have a bit more to do.

Of course, this all will be less of a concern if the show is funny enough, and the pilot certainly showcases an ensemble and writing staff working well together, if a little stiffly. A running gag about which of Annie's gay dads is her biological father is a little flat, but at least sets up the dynamic between Tim Meadows and Dan Bucatinsky, while the one about her yoga instructor finding banal things to compliment her on because she's so bad at yoga (Is that your car outside? Great parking job) is funny every time it comes up.

The question of why her gay dads are young enough to be played by Meadows and Bucatinsky is likely to remain a mystery, but since having both of those actors back on TV is always a plus, it's best to just pretend it's not a problem. Tymberlee Hill, as Wilson's friend Kay, makes the most of the brief screen time she gets, while Sarah Wright Olsen and Dan Gemberling need more time to grow out of stereotypical best friend roles.

If "Marry Me" succeeds, it will undoubtedly be on the strength of its quick-firing ensemble, which remains a little under-defined for now. Whether or not people really want to watch another comedy about a group of well-off people in their 30s with beautiful apartments cracking jokes at each other is another question.

And for all those people still lamenting the loss of "Happy Endings," we can happily confirm: Casey Wilson's unparalleled skill at hitting her head on things has been safely transferred to "Marry Me."

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