Free Ride

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SNAKE GUYS Dean, left, and Sheridan party with a boa.
SNAKE GUYS Dean, left, and Sheridan party with a boa.

Time Out says

No network burns through sitcoms faster than Fox, so don’t be surprised if Free Ride makes a quick exit once it settles into its Sunday death slot opposite Desperate Housewives. That would be a shame: While Free Ride is no Arrested Development, it still represents a worthy attempt at charting a middle ground between the dry improv of The Office and the broad humor of conventional TV comedies.

The title sums up the whole concept: Nate (Josh Dean), a recent college grad, returns to Podunk, Missouri, to mooch off his parents (Allan Harvey and Loretta Fox). After four years in California, the Wal-Mart--laden heartland is like Mars to Nate, and it doesn’t help that his parents have turned his bedroom into a gym. That’s just one aspect of their simultaneous midlife crises, which are a lot more interesting (at least in the first two episodes) than his infatuation with a hottie high-school acquaintance (Erin Cahill) who’s engaged to a lunkhead (Dan Wells).

There’s exposition a-plenty in the pilot, leaving little room for the acerbic satire that emerges in the second episode, which offers the most hilarious attack on chain restaurants since Mike Judge’s “flair” speech in Office Space. Unfortunately, the generic good looks of Dean and Dave Sheridan (as a Jeff Spicoli type who befriends Nate) are a stumbling block: A pair of Ashton Kutcher clones, both look like the kind of guys who used to steal lunch money from the grown-up Lloyd Doblers the series seems to target. Free Ride is far more traditional than creator Robert Roy Thomas’s last effort, Bravo’s Significant Others, but the absence of a laugh track and the use of handheld cameras in this kind of sitcom may be proof that the mainstream has finally started to learn from shows on the genre’s cutting edge.—Andrew Johnston

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