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TELEVISION REVIEW

Boldly going where everyone has gone before

Mary Elizabeth Ellis and David Walton play one of the couples on NBC’s new Thursday night sitcom. Mary Elizabeth Ellis and David Walton play one of the couples on NBC’s new Thursday night sitcom. (Adam Taylor/NBC)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / January 20, 2011

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NBC runs some of TV’s best sitcoms on Thursdays, most notably “30 Rock,’’ which is still a jackpot of political, media, and business satire. With “The Office,’’ “Community,’’ and “Parks and Recreation,’’ which returns tonight at 9:30, the lineup is quite respectable. It’s not hard to understand why the network, still flailing around in ratings hell, might turn for help to what it does best, by expanding the Thursday comedy block from two to three hours.

But it’s nearly impossible to understand why NBC would pick a sitcom like “Perfect Couples’’ to build up the night. The show, which premieres tonight at 8:30 on Channel 7 after an unpromoted preview back in December, is a cookie-cutter relationship comedy that thrives on cartoonish characters dropping clichéd one-liners about love, sex, and gender. The three couples featured on “Perfect Couples’’ take on predictable lifestyle issues such as mancaves and game night with all the spark of a wet matchbook.

Does the show sound a lot like ABC’s “Better With You’’ and CBS’s “Rules of Engagement’’? That’s a rhetorical question. “Perfect Couples’’ is distinctive only for being so boldly unoriginal in conception and in execution.

Here’s the skinny: There’s The Sane Couple, a married pair played by Christine Woods and Kyle Bornheimer, the likable actor from the failed “Worst Week.’’ When he tries to improve his diet, she agrees to have sex every time he is tempted by unhealthy foods. There’s the Sex-Passion-Fighting Couple, an unmarried pair played by David Walton and Mary Elizabeth Ellis. They argue and then have make-up sex, before they argue and have make-up sex again. And there’s the Touchy-Feely Couple, newlyweds played by Hayes MacArthur and Olivia Munn (from “Attack of the Show’’ and “The Daily Show’’). They process their issues, and then have sex.

While the rest of NBC’s Thursday lineup tries to be different — even the often painful “Outsourced,’’ now at 10:30 p.m., has a unique premise — “Perfect Couples’’ settles for generic relationship fodder. The couples hang out, debate, get drunk, have sex, and generally act cute for 22 minutes a week. They’re just like you and me — if we were made of plastic and had pullstrings, that is.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit www.boston.com/ae/tv/blog.

PERFECT COUPLES

Starring: Kyle Bornheimer, Christine Woods, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Hayes MacArthur, David Walton, Olivia Munn

On: NBC, Channel 7

Time: Tonight, 8:30-9