Mad Love Mad Love

On this day of hearts and flowers, I'd really hoped to welcome TV's latest rom-com with something other than groans and daggers. But if you want bubbly this Valentine's Day, you're probably going to have to pop your own cork.

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CBS' Mad Love is far from the worst of the new relationship comedies saturating the midseason. (That would be a race between NBC's Perfect Couples and Fox's Traffic Light, with Couples winning — or rather losing — by a derivative nose.) It's certainly got the best and most immediately promising cast. If only it didn't feel so much like a clone of its lead-in How I Met Your Mother, from the Manhattan backdrop to the casting of the delightful Sarah Chalke (formerly Stella to Josh Radnor's Ted) as the winsome love interest of a New York lawyer (American Pie's Jason Biggs) who could be Ted's even duller, more corporate cousin.

As Kate and Ben, their fairy tale "meet cute" (atop the Empire State Building) love-at-first-sight story is observed through the snark filter of their combative best friends: Reaper's wisecracking Tyler Labine as Larry, a shaggier, tubbier version of HIMYM's Barney; and the sublime Judy Greer as misanthropic nanny Connie (think Robin with less ambition). Larry hates Connie, and the feeling's mutual. But as they watch their smitten best buds overcome their first hurdle — the albatross of Ben's malaprop-prone girlfriend, whom he hasn't had the stones yet to dump — there's something in Larry and Connie's squabbles that makes you wonder if opposites won't eventually attract.

Too bad that's not more wonder in this very familiar show. There's nothing really wrong with Mad Love. There's just nothing new about any of it.

Now if the show was about Connie falling for Kate, or some such twist, that could be mad fun. But no such luck. Shows like these are about as edgy as a New York cheesecake, if not as filling. Maybe we should consider ourselves lucky just to fall in like with a show. It's enough to drive you mad.

Mad Love premieres Monday, 8:30/7:30c, on CBS.

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