It is a big wide world, and it behooves the critic to ask himself, when he thinks a show is full of hooey, whether it really is hooey or just something outside the range of his experience.
That I have not spent a lot of time in saloons, looking to hook up or get down or whatever, making crude anatomical remarks and discussing pickup techniques with my boys, my bros, my bras, does not mean that "Mixology," a new comedy premiering Wednesday on ABC, does not present a world some people might find familiar and true.
But it might still be hooey.
Created by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote the much-loved "The Hangover" and the less-loved "21 and Over," "Mixology" has at least a novel structure: Copious flashbacks aside, the course of its season is meant to take us through a single evening in a big New York City bar as we follow several characters whose lives will intertwine, and intertwine some more.
To bring in some superior references, it is like "Cheers," as written by Neil LaBute in a not-entirely-horrible mood, mixed with "Lost" — everyone stuck in a place that defeats their attempts to leave it, with cutaways to explain the special reasons (parents!) each is damaged. (There is also an aspirational dash of "The Real World": "This is the story of 10 strangers," runs a narrative voice-over, "one night, and all the ridiculous things we do to find love.") References are made early on to "Friends" and "Sex and the City," possibly to suggest that this thing will be more real than those things. (Or in their august tradition, at least.)
The characters are easy-to-encapsulate types who occasionally will do something unexpected in the name of reality. Though there is talk of love — the issue is pressed from above by the voice-over narration — the humor runs more to the hateful.
Two otherwise mismatched characters begin to bond over their mutual dislike of Hawaiians — safe to take as absurd because it is mostly based on the shirts, sandals and Don Ho. Just so, when one woman, having belittled a male colleague, says, "If I talked like that to Don Draper, he would smack me in the mouth — that is a man," we are most likely not supposed to regard the thought with approval. Then again, I don't know, really.
Characters say things real people never would just so that we may find them funny, or pitiful, or gross. There is something mechanical and arbitrary about the plotting, as if a mess of gears that didn't actually go together had been smashed into some semblance of a working order. (One character, apparently deemed completely unworkable — my favorite character, as it happens — disappears after the pilot, even as she is on the verge of starting something, and another takes her approximate position.)
I'll allow that there may be some revelations and resolutions further down the line that pull everything into beautiful perspective. (I would settle for some polar bears and black smoke.) The end is a long way away, however, and I am tired of this bar.
When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)