Chuck Lorre’s ‘B Positive’ Puts a (Slightly) More Urgent Spin on the TV Odd Couple: TV Review
When most people get too drunk, they might do an embarrassing dance or text someone they know they really shouldn’t be texting. When Gina (Annaleigh Ashford) gets too drunk, however, she becomes “Becky,” an enthusiastic hellion who ruins weddings, falls out of windows and, in a moment of enlightened benevolence, offers up her kidney to some guy she vaguely knew in high school. That she doesn’t back off that offer once she wakes up (relatively) sober says a lot about Gina as a person beyond her wildness — and yet at least in its first two episodes, “B Positive” has some trouble realizing that there’s a lot more to Gina than it often allows.
Created by “Mom” writer Marco Pennette, and based on his own experiences of getting a kidney transplant, “B Positive” primarily focuses on Drew (Thomas Middleditch), the aforementioned “some guy” who learns in the series’ opening minutes that he’s facing catastrophic renal failure. This terrible realization forces Drew to…well, not exactly reevaluate his life, but at least cast a more appraising, annoyed eye on it. Divorced from his impatient ex-wife Julia (Sara Rue), at a loss with his disconnected teenage daughter (Izzy G), isolated from his family and without any close friends, Drew’s life looks rather bleak, especially when he realizes that finding a kidney match might be harder than he thought.
Enter Gina. As written, she’s a basic party girl whose only real attachment to the world that the show introduces is her equally party-happy coworker, Leanne (Kether Donohue, so good in a similar role on FXX’s “You’re the Worst”). But in Ashford’s hands, even Gina’s most basic lines get a smart delivery, and she allows just enough genuine vulnerability peek through that the character becomes the show’s most intriguing by a mile. (Middleditch found real success playing a neurotic straight man of sorts on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” and yet has more trouble finding a unique way in to Drew’s character in the early offings of “B Positive.”)
The first two episodes of the show, though, do set up enough sideplots and dynamics to suggest that there’s plenty of material to mine going forward. It’s also not hard to see where “B Positive” could sit among the latest slate of CBS multi-cam sitcoms produced by Chuck Lorre, namely “Mom” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.” With settings like Gina’s job at an assisted living facility and Drew’s dialysis group turned frank support group, “B Positive” works to lend more personality and authenticity to what could otherwise be just a basic odd couple show. Should it get the room to go forward, the show would be smart to expand upon those elements that make Gina and Drew seem more human instead of leaning on their wacky differences.
“B Positive” premieres Thursday, November 5 at 8:30 pm on CBS.