Shows where people have inner voices almost never work, mainly because that inner voice becomes an intrusion pretty quickly. Shows that utilize them well learn quickly that the more sparing its use, the better. But what happens when a character’s inner voice has a name?
Opening Shot: People playing soccer on a city field at night. A young man’s inner monologue says, “Why does your team suck?”
The Gist: Ray (Vihaan Samat) is an awkward 24-year-old manboy whose inner monologue is in the voice of a comic book character named “Wiz” (Jim Sarbh). He carries the character with him all the time on a keychain, and has pictures of him in his work cubicle and at home. During the football game, he sees a woman on one of the team who smiles at him, but as Wiz tells him he should ask her out, he’s also telling Ray that he’s not good enough for her.
That’s basically the way Ray’s life goes. His parents (Suchitra Pillai, Rahul Bose) don’t know what to make of him. Is he gay? Asexual? Something else? Ray assures him that he likes women, but he also resists their desire to set him up on a date.
His work buddy Varun (Ankur Rathee) has just gotten engaged and wants to celebrate. At the bar after work, he encourages Ray to talk to a random woman at the bar, and Wiz both encourages him and discourages him. Ray invites his childhood friend Riya (Dalai) as a safety blanket, and when Varun mentions that Ray might be a virgin, he starts to tell a story about having sex with a teacher when he was in 8th grade. That fake brag backfires on him when his friends think he was a victim of statutory rape, which is when he bangs on the table and insists he was a virgin.
He finally agrees to let his parents set him up, especially when he sees a picture of the woman he’s going to go out with. But he chickens out when he gets to the bar, hiding when she comes in to meet him. “Oh my god; we’re gonna make an angel cry,” says Wiz. “Fuck, man, what a fuckup you are.”
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Eternally Confused And Eager For Love feels like the show that would have been created if there was a spinoff of The Big Bang Theory centering on Raj and his early inability to speak to women unless he was drinking.
Our Take: Eternally Confused And Eager For Love, created and directed by Rahul Nair, is the rare show whose best feature is also its most annoying feature. How can it be both? Because Sarbh’s self-important take on Wiz is the funniest part of the first episode. But that inner voice can also be intrusive in scenes, to the point where we wonder if it would have been more effective if it was used less.
Listen, we’ve been where Ray has been, supposedly an adult who still has no idea how to talk to women, much less date and/or sleep with them. Our inner dialogue wasn’t a particular character, like Ray’s was, but it’s said all the things that Wiz says to Ray. What we wanted to do throughout the first episode was put our hands on Ray’s shoulders and tell him that it gets better, with some work and introspection.
It’s why we didn’t find Ray’s self-loathing all that funny; first of all, he’s just presented as an awkward young adult with no context as to why he’s like that. Secondly, we were just hoping that he doesn’t spend the entire first season being that shy and self-loathing. Maybe he figures out that he and Riya should be together, or he actually is able to read a signal like the woman who smiled at him outside the restaurant where he was doing his blind date.
But to see this cycle of awkwardness and self-loathing for eight episodes feels like it’ll be a lot. Even as Ray inevitably asks women out and dates, Wiz will always be chattering away. If we were wondering why Ray wasn’t in intense therapy by the end of the first episode, how will we feel by the end of eight?
Sex and Skin: None, besides Ray’s made-up story about losing his virginity in 8th grade.
Parting Shot: After Ray blows the date, Wiz asks him “What are you going to tell your parents?”
Sleeper Star: Definitely Sarbh as Wiz, mainly because he’s the most confident character in the show, but still has the ability to make Ray feel like crap.
Most Pilot-y Line: Varun tries to find Ray a less attractive co-worker to be in dating app pictures with him, but the guy he finds still is better looking than Ray.
Our Call: SKIP IT. There things about Eternally Confused And Eager For Love that almost made us flip this to “stream it,” but we realized that watching Ray fumble around dating for eight episodes sounds exhausting, Wiz or no Wiz.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.