Review: I Just Want My Pants Back – 1×01: ‘Pilot’

Courtesy of MTV

For the longest time I avoided MTV shows like the plague. While I understood the appeal of their reality TV line-up (Jersey Shore, The Real World), I’m wasn’t personally interested in them. And, if we’re being honest, I’m judgy. Even when I heard the cable channel was getting back into scripted shows, I didn’t bite. Then last summer I watched Awkward and it became my #4 best show of 2011. Thus when I heard about a new comedy called I Just Want My Pants Back, I decided to give it a go to see if lightning struck twice.

Let’s bitch it out…

Let’s address the title and premise first. Yes, the title is awkward (it’s based on a 2007 novel by David J. Rosen), but it’s also memorable. The show is about the lives and loves of a group of twenty-somethings who live in NY. Our protagonist is Jason (Peter Vack), or Jay to his friends. Jay is a suitably disheveled mid-twenties guy who works as a “receptionist” for a television commercial casting agency (in the pilot he helps film auditions for a commercial that will feature dancing midgets in fruit costumes). Jay, we learn early on, has a hit a dry spell – as in he hasn’t gotten any in quite some time. Then one night when his slutty K$sha-esque friend, Tina (Kim Stack – queen of one liners) ditches him at the bar, he hooks up with Jane (Kelli Barrett).

It is their “cute, and funny, and surprisingly filthy” one night stand that leads to the show’s title: Jane, in an effort to avoid the walk of shame in front of her door man, ‘borrows’ Jay’s jeans and and slips him a fake number to a Thai restaurant. The two may be a perfect match, but it’s clear that she’s not interested in anything more than some sexytime in his refrigerator. Thus the premise of the show is set: Jay will seek out Jane (and his pants).

The pilot is our raw introduction into this – dare I say it – ‘hipster’ world. The banter between Jay and Tina is appropriately dirty, silly and filled with rapid-fire pop-culture references (one scene alone features shout-outs to both Sound of Music and Dawson’s Creek). This kind of in-the-know dialogue won’t be for everyone, but considering that the show airs after Jersey Shores and airs on MTV,I think that it’s appropriate for its target audience.

Tagging along for the ride are Jay and Tina’s graduate student ‘couple’ friends, Stacey (Elisabeth Hower) and Eric (Jordan Carlos). These two are less developed, though no less familiar:  they’re safe & predictable in all the ways that Jay and Tina are trashy and drunk. That doesn’t, however, mean that they are lacking for wit or wordplay: Says Stacey (during the Wii party against a portly man/skinny wife combo), “I’m not losing to before and after.”

Courtesy of MTV

I can see why some critics may feel that the show is trying too hard, or even desperate to be edgy, but the vibe and the language felt mostly realistic to me (the jokes about Heidi Montag I can do without *shudder*). You can easily imagine slipping into this dialogue amongst close friends and the direction (under executive producer Doug Liman, of The Bourne Identity fame) is energetic and matches the speed at which the characters are living. It’s not about the day job; it’s about the life in between (friend, parties, and the morning stop-in at the local deli to shoot the shit).

In short, I’ll definitely keep watching. Underneath all the one-liners and cynicism, there’s a heart and a minor hero’s journey at the center of the show. The imdb description (written by anonymous) helpfully clarifies: “It’s not until a one night stand steals his heart and his pants, that he begins a quest to get his beloved jeans back, and hopefully the girl, while also growing up along the way.” Well said, anonymous, well said.

Other Considerations:

  • I enjoy how Jay’s “gold standard” for playing it cool is “a young James Van Der Beek.”
  • Much like Two Broke Girls, there’s an ethnic supporting character who gets in on the dirty talking. In contrast to the CBS comedy, however, Bobby (Sunkrish Bala) is less of a caricature and more of a wry observer with a politically incorrect filter. He’s not above calling Tina “whore friend of Jason” but at least he’s not leering at her breasts or asking her to participate in a threeway. Take note Michael Patrick King: if you must include sensitive portrayals of minorities, there is a way to make them funny.
  • Above all other qualities, it is the dialogue that truly makes the show snap:

>Jay (to Tina early in the morning): “Ugh…you need antibacterial soap and barbecue brush”

>Tina (discussing douchebag peripheral friend, Lench): You want him [Jay] to take career lessons from Scott Lench? The guy who asked me to roleplay school bus driver and sexy slow girl?

>Tina (in relation to Jay getting over ‘the pants girl’): So we’ll all go out this weekend and find you a new girl. Someone who thinks that irony tastes like metal. You know, a simple girl that you can confuse into banging you

>Bobby (to Tina after she shows off her hickeys): Hello Tina. See I’m being nice today because of your festering neck-wound

So what did you think of the debut? Did you appreciate Tina’s K$sha’esque nature? Do you care if Jay finds Jane again? And most importantly, did I Just Want My Pants Back resonant enough to merit a second episode, or were you suitably discouraged by the dirty talk and unwashed hair?

UPDATE: Be sure to see my updated thoughts on the show’s second through fourth episodes here and episodes five through six here

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy