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Metaphorically searching outside the box for a genre out of one’s element may transcend to a happier, lighter place. Or it may bring me to the dark, shady bar scene of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1980, where my long-distance co-star athletes pounded down Old Style every night. Drunken mythology is not a search for one’s self. This show may promise to bring you to a place in your youth where passion mingled with barley hops.
I wasn’t quite interested in a drawn-out drama one night, so I clicked on Netflix’s “Mixology,” about ten people who inhabit a bar for one night over a dozen episodes. It was an attempt at male virility mixed with iron-hearted females who can cross-punt and destroy any with their sexual strategy. Bruce, played by Andrew Santino, is the driving force who engages his pals on a mission to get laid before the midnight hour, or bar time, as he would have it. What unravels is the tangled web of all ten crossing each other’s paths, not knowing the outcome of how it could change by the next episode.
Bruce’s wit and savvy line delivery is salvation to a script that is little more than a fraternity battle of the sexes. Tom, a Donny Osmond look-alike who just broke up with his girlfriend, is escorted by Bruce and Cal to the bar to trump the memories plaguing his love lost, Laura. He picks out an Asian-American hottie at the bar who is a well-dressed, fine-featured lawyer who represents professional athletes. She is definitely out of his league. She grew up as a tomboy to a dad who wanted a boy instead of a girl. The role is played by Ginger Gonzaga of the hit movie “Ted.” Her dead-on, nuanced precision gave unspoken clarity to the scenes that would have fallen limp by a less skilled actress. Her mystery and subtlety drew me in.
Tom, who recently broke up with Laura after eight years of courting, is new to this scene in his red plaid farmer’s shirt and out of place in a New York upscale bar scene. His friend Bruce, a redhead who plays the female market like a stockade, has pre-planned moves to trap any woman and admonishes Cal and Tom for not obeying him. Bruce has a disadvantage, his looks, which he has to compensate for by getting a woman. He is flanked by Cal, played by Craig Frank, who has a smile that could melt any woman’s heart and resembles Denzel Washington. The triad believes that staking out territory such as seating in a bar is as essential as picking the right woman. “Never pick a woman in flats,” says Bruce, because she is not serious about getting laid.
Jessica, played by Alexis Carra, is another woman who stands out. The New Jersey single parent contoured in her tight red dress is looking for an adventure that may result in permanency. She tells her sister, “I have two years to find someone who won’t hate my kids, likes me, and is crazy enough to marry me.” She meets an internet connection named Ron from England who has scammed investors over an internet scheme. He throws up in her purse after they barely exchange introductions. She then gravitates to the bartender, a South American musician who missed his calling in life.
Throughout the night, the ten actors cross each other’s paths in unexpected moments and vibes. Vanessa Lengies, who plays Kacey, detangles herself from the bartender to hook up with Cal, who is from her hometown. She can already name what children she wants and how many of each sex. They repeat clichés from TV commercials from their hometown. Vanessa Lengies is a spontaneous actress who has to juggle men and three hits in one night. She was a standout athlete in the movie “Stick It” with Jeff Bridges.
At each turn there is a something to jumble up the mix. Kacey’s gynecologist hits on her, but Jessica’s best friend wants him. Bruce works out strategies to close the deal with such male talk as wing man and double agent. He starts flirting with Maya toward the end of the night to make Tom jealous. Tom comes up to Bruce after Maya and Bruce suck a lime together mouth to mouth and punches him in the jaw. He wins his conquest, Maya, who calls him Rocky.
Liv, Maya’s best friend, is confused like Tom and wants to get out of a five-year relationship with a safe guy she met at the pet shelter. She goes for Ron, whose charm she can’t resist. They go to a strip club where a stripper tells Liv he quit being a lawyer to get off the corporate hamster wheel. Liv gets it in her head to take off to India to do an “Eat, Pray, Love” thing and corrals Ron into going with her at that instant. Then she changes her mind.
The whole premise of the show is the interaction and spotlight of young adults as they search for something greater than themselves, for that one special connection to an individual who may temporarily satisfy their needs. Bruce’s primordial urge to verify his masculinity gets tapered in the process as he ends up eating pancakes with Jessica at a local diner, including stuffing six pancakes to go in his Army jacket. He turns down a pumpkin pounder (women who love redheads) to opt for the possibility of a platonic friendship, which diffuses the idea that having sex is winning.
Mixology is purely entertainment that tries to target the late-twenty-something, early-thirties crowd. It was slotted this spring on ABC after “Modern Family,” a hard slot to fill, and didn’t gain the stature to measure up to that popular show. A Ryan Seacrest production, it combines the writing skills of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who co-wrote the “Hangover” movie hits. In the same vein of other Seacrest productions, it is verbal paradigm of an exonerated Kardashian reality show with more clever dialogue and relational plotting. Like the Kardashians, who are a bit clannish, it shows the impulses of human attachment and reactivity.
Maya’s strength throughout the 12 episodes is a testament that women can’t just be taken but will make real choices for themselves. She ends up kicking Tom’s sniveling ex-girlfriend out of his apartment after she crawls back knowing that he has already found someone else. The characters grow on the audience as flashbacks reveal their backgrounds and personalities. I found the discourse polished but the content disarming. When Cal says, “You are a Viking. You rape and pillage and find what you want,” it’s rather degenerating. Thinking that someone could find true love or a sense of security by just one successful attraction after social experimentation was somewhat exhausting—not to mention watching the cast in the same outfit for 12 episodes. Over those episodes, they averaged 10 drinks apiece.
There may be an art to picking up the opposite sex in New York City, but in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the spoils were distributed to the most nearly attractive male who could still walk. Compared to other comedies, the camaraderie between actors worked and their lives were believable, making it entertaining down to the last pancake. Grade: B