The new Netflix comedy Unrelated has two big draws – Neil Patrick Harris and Darren Star.
Harris has been a regular on TV and film since his 1989 rise to fame as the cherub Doogie Houser. Known for his energetic charisma, Harris is eligible to star in TV series due to his multiple talents.
The other name at the top is Star, a television writer who has created some of the most famous prime time soap operas and foam shows, including Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Sex in the city, younger as well as Emily in Paris.
Combined the mega power of Harris and Star lights up Unrelatedan invigorating and likable half-hour series about Michael (Harris), a gay man in his forties who is dumped without warning by Colin (Tuck Watkins), his partner of 17 years.
While Michael throws a surprise party for Colin’s 50th birthday, Colin breaks the news that not only is he leaving him, he’s already moved out.
Michael is left abandoned and deprived. There were no warning signs that something was wrong in their beautifully appointed Manhattan apartment, and Colin doesn’t say why he left.
Struggling to deal with the shock of this sudden life change, Michael returns to the dating scene. He believes things have changed a lot in the nearly two decades he’s been away, and Grindr’s d**k pics etiquette is just one of countless problems.
The attraction of shows like Unrelated is that they create a cozy world where everyone is attractive, well-dressed and smart. They have a fascinating job (art gallery owner! TV meteorologist!), and they always say the right thing at the right time – almost as if their witty and sometimes insightful dialogue was written by Hollywood writers.
Even seemingly insurmountable emotional traumas have a sheen. There are brief scenes of Michael’s depression – flipping through old photos of him and Colin – but not endless ugly crying or catatonic attacks that actually cause painful breaks.
Any truncated episodes of frustration are usually quickly followed by bouts of moaning with Michael’s brash friends, including Suzanne (Tisha Campbell), Billy (Emerson Brooks) and Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), where the poignancy can undermine the emotional truth of the moment.
Rougher emotions flare between Michael and Claire (Marcia Gay Harden), a super-rich divorcee still reeling from being dumped by her husband for a much younger woman.
Michael and Claire share a common predicament, the bitterness of abandonment, the need to lead a single life again when they were sure they were done. These are the times when Unrelated it seems to go a little deeper than the superficial jokes of sassy and privileged New Yorkers.
And Harris is able to give seriousness to a cause that in other hands could be much less ambitious. He is, as always, very watchable.
Unrelated would not be Darren Star’s trademark escapism – there are certain Sex in the city vibes – if it really was true that he was suddenly abandoned. If you want to swim in these muddy waters of misery, there is always Scenes from the wedding.
Uncoupled on Netflix from Friday, July 29th.