Couple of Guys is a quaint award-winning pilot episode that features a great onscreen chemistry between the two costars. Immersed in a seamless banter, the gay couple really do complete each other’s sentences. And while kind of cliched, the synergy serves to up your spirits. But there are still tweaks to be made in our society, and no need to get too dramatic, writer/director Debra Markowitz goes easy to make the point.
A laid back little guitar strum eases us into the middle class suburban setting, and musically infers that there’s no need to rush into the movie or the romance. Unsurprisingly, an independent book/CD store serves as the opening, and the Marc Riou cinematography, essentially inserts us into all of the everyday scenes.
All set up, Jon (Lukas Hassel/The Blacklist) enters. Two kids in tow, his bearded blonde hair has leading man written all over his tall thin frame. His demeanor also says cool dad (or actually uncle), and despite the classic good looks, Hassel portrays as approachable and non-pretentiousness.
Thus, Hassel’s inviting nature is almost impossible to pass up. A good thing because Richard (Sal Rendino/East New York) definitely needs an edge. A bit balding and not nearly as buff or young, Richard would have felt pretty out of his league, and the series would have been over before it started.
So the dye is cast and Jon and Richard begin to engage. Nothing so memorable, a mundane normalcy means to put real people into the duo’s shoes and is exemplified when Richard refers to the music delivery system of his day. An album (Richard calls a group of songs) and Hassel doesn’t pass up the chance, “When you say albums, you mean CDs,” Hassel counters.
Of course, the slightly sarcastic jibe signals a possible opening, and we aren’t the only ones who get the continuing invite of Hassel’s performance. Still, Richard pauses, and you can see Rendino pondering what the pain will feel like if he doesn’t take a chance.
Like life is passing before his eyes and operating on the clock, Rendino almost anesthetizes himself. This way he can stave off the full force of the embarrassment and dull the anguish of what should be a rejection.
A bit taken aback, Jon surprises, and his decency makes sure that Richard understands that acceptance is not charity. All good, we then get some exposition from Abigail Hawk of Blue Bloods.
Playing Jon’s sister, we see that Jon is enjoying his life, and Hawk’s playful needling reveals a good, caring sister. “Is there somebody there with you? Is he still in bed?” the actress revels in the banter. The possibility of Jon being a player comes across, and now shirtless, the stereotype is etched out like the chisel that has been applied to his physique.
However, the decency we have already seen rises above the impression, and the way Hassel plays along, implies the revolving door may simply be a function of trying to find the right guy.
Coffee it is nonetheless, and in the process of getting more backstory, the pleasantries continue. Jon is a musician who scores movies and Richard has a law degree and has raised a family.
Switching settings, we get a closer look at Richard’s two kids and ex-wife. Max Tamarkin and Noelle Diane got teenage snark down to a science, and Rendino teaches a master class in accepting that this annoying stage of fatherhood will eventually pass. On good terms with his wife too, the whole dynamic serves to draw more distinction between Jon and Richard.
More than opposites attract, the dialogue and actors’ delivery gives off a sense of ease that says these two don’t have to work hard to make up the differences. Then we get down to it, and the kindling follows suit.
Hedging on the periphery of a Hallmark Movie, the plunge still has enough heart and soul to feel real, and with When We First Met being the pilot – you can’t help wanting more. But the drama must come due. An awkward pause and a cut to black does the trick, and with a light touch, Couple of Guys lets us know there’s more work to be done in terms of societal acceptance.