Plot: Ned (Thomas Haden Church) is a successful ad man, a free wheeling type who never intends to settle down, while Stacey (Debra Messing) is an ambitious journalist with a strong vision for her life. The two couldn’t be much more different, so when they meet on a blind date, the connection doesn’t exactly lead to butterflies or fireworks. But just when it seems like the two will part ways, never to meet again, they realize they might be able to help each other. Ned learns a big promotion is open, but his bosses want a married man, as that presents a stable image, while Stacey is desperate to leave her parents’ home, but can’t afford a decent apartment. Seeing the potential mutual benefits, Ned suggests the two get married and reap the rewards, but continue to live their personal lives however they choose. Stacey doesn’t love the idea of a fake marriage, but with few other options, she agrees. But even with the possible benefits, can this odd couple survive sharing the same apartment?
Entertainment Value: This series had a two season run, but never gained much traction when it was first broadcast. But it would become another example of the value of syndication, as reruns would help the show find an audience. You can understand why the show ended up lost in the shuffle, as it follows typical sitcom tropes and does little to push beyond those boundaries. That doesn’t mean Ned and Stacey is a bad show, but it is tough to stand out in a crowded field when you don’t have some kind of hook to reel in potential viewers. But while this is a pretty standard sitcom, it works the formula well and does what a show like this should do. In other words, it might not be original, but it hits all the notes fans of the genre should appreciate. I also think this series showed some sparks of potential to be more at times, especially later in the series, as the dynamic between the leads evolved. But most episodes offer the usual self contained, predictable stories, just with more charm than usual. That is not a problem however, as the audience for this kind of material is immense.
One of the reasons Ned and Stacey is able to be a cut above similar shows is the cast, which is often able to elevate the predictable narratives. Thomas Haden Church is a borderline lunatic here, a much needed source of chaos in an otherwise mostly run of the mill experience. His presence helps makes even routine episodes have a little more life and freshness, as he such a wildcard. As a fan of Church, this is the kind of role I love to see him in, so his presence adds a lot to the show. Debra Messing is fine as well, but seems a little overshadowed at times by Church. But she often holds her own and the dynamic between the two really is the foundation of the show. The interactions between them are some of the show’s best moments, not to mention the awkward instances when they venture out to see other people. Greg Germann provides some additional comic presence, so this is a solid cast. This show might not be a vision of fresh television, but it is a fun watch and stands well above a lot of similar programs.