At it’s best, this show is as funny and charming as a well written (if not particularly insightful) sitcom episode. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a snob, I actually mean that as a compliment, doing that style really well isn’t easy. At its worst, though, the show is borderline offensive, and not in a focused and edgy Sacha Baron Cohen way, just in a muddled, tacky and unimaginative way.
I’m thankful that charm and wit eventually take the day in First Date – most of the worst stuff is in the first half-hour – and this is mostly due to Austin Winsburg’s engaging book. We follow, in more-or-less real time, a blind date between the ordinary but well intentioned Aaron (Zachary Levi) and the very offbeat and defensive Casey (Krysta Rodriguez).
Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner’s score is well-crafted but not always well-considered. The best example of this is their portrayal of Casey’s gay friend Reggie (Christopher Kusick). When he’s singing, Reggie’s an unfunny, unlikable cartoon.
When Reggie starts talking Winsburg’s words, though, he becomes an identifiable person. He’s still flamboyant, needy and over-the-top, but in a way that’s more recognizably human. I know this queen, and don’t dislike him. Music and lyrics need to be in the same world as the book, and that doesn’t always happen here.
Director Bill Berry has certainly framed this light-weight show in the best way possible, particularly in the casting. Levi holds the stage like an old pro, charismatic and dynamic. Krysta Rodriguez, fresh from her turn in TV’s “Smash”, is similarly energetic, bringing to her role a surprising warmth under all the deadpan snarkiness.
First Date is a good, but not a great, show, often amusing and, I’m happy to say, quite briskly paced. I look forward to still better things from all involved.
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