Watching ABCs new midseason comedy Mixology the other night, I realized that it had completely won me over. Sneakily in fact. As a rabid consumer of scripted television, I rolled the dice on the series based purely on my appreciation of novelty and gimmicks. It’s literally pegged as “a Romantic Comedy with a Twist.” I’m in. A whole series focused on one night at a club in (fake) New York City, the premise seemed a bit imbalanced, but unique and ambitious enough to get us through these tough TV times. And at first glance, Mixology is barely that. There was something gratingly awkward and clumsy about the first few outings. Everyone seemed to eye their soulmate within moments. It was hard to believe why anyone would stay at this club for a whole hour, let alone a season. Episodes overlap significantly to the point that it’s impossible to tell if you’re watching a rerun for about ten minutes each week. Flashbacks and back stories are drawn out all the way back to birth and aren’t as entertaining or insightful as the narrator pretended they were. There’s a narrator.
But for everything that Mixology misses the mark on, there seems to be something done undeniably right. Nine episodes in, strangely enough, I don’t hate any of these people. To be fair, the bar at this bar was set unreasonably low in the pilot. When an obnoxious Brit throwing up seemed to be the most sincere thing to come out of anyone’s mouth for a whole episode, there’s not really any other direction but up. But in time, British guy, played charmingly enough by real Brit Adam Campbell, grew repentant and sincere. The bad girl/good girl duo of Maya and Liv eventually find their stride somewhere in the middle of a genuine friendship. In fact, all of the women in the show organically coming together becomes such an intriguing surprise as the show proceeds that the trigger warning drenched dirtbag schtick of the male leads stopped making me gag. This week even the bartender succumbs to hijinks that humanize him, if not just give him another thing to do besides flirt and play horrible guitar. A cliche I wholly expected to run amok for the rest of the series.
And that’s precisely what caught me unawares. Mixology is a series backed by mainstream stalwart Ryan Seacrest of all people and in its first few episodes, egregiously poured on every cliche and trope you could imagine about modern big city nightlife, 20/30-somethings looking for love, and lazy television comedies about those things. The characters were secondary to the their character types for so long — from unassuming token Black guy to bubbly blonde bottle girl — it was hard to believe this wasn’t just a cynical and mocking portrait of a small but overexposed subset of Americans. In fact, it was and probably still is. But that’s no way to live for a young comedy. We need the warmth and sweetness of the good cliches played sincerely — love at first sight, bad girl with a heart of gold, girl power, etc. — to make the others easier to swallow. We need to believe what these characters are doing matters. The stakes need to matter. The characters themselves need to matter. And surprisingly enough, eventually it happened.
Everyone had finally showed up to the party. Surely, as a viewer you can have your favorites (don’t pick Bruce) but the whole cast has become fleshed out enough for that not to seem like a challenge anymore. There are now a variety of TV-friendly personalities drawn out in colorfully broad strokes to enjoy or berate. Particularly, Ginger Gonzaga and Kate Simses as Maya and Liv are gorgeous enough to watch 10 horrible episodes of anything but have actually began to play well off each other and develop a rapport that hints at their going out together this particular night being more than just for narrative contrast.
The ice has been officially broken, so go ahead and jump in to Mixology if you’re so inclined. It’s fun and light with enough will they or won’t they to keep you coming back each week. Or wait, until it’s inevitably canceled by ABC and catch the whole series on HuFlix drunken and lonely one Saturday evening in the near future because watching beautiful people play pretend is just as good as going out yourself and having fun. I’m pretty sure.