TV review: “Ground Floor” hits the ground running

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From the November 7, 2013 edition

Sometimes a new television show is surprising, as is the case with the new comedy “Ground Floor.” I didn’t have particularly high hopes for the TBS series, but maybe I should have.

With creator Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs,” “Cougar Town”) leading the way and a cast of likable, talented comedic actors, “Ground Floor” has the pedigree to be an enjoyable series. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when, after groaning at the first bad joke that garnered a live studio audience laugh (track), the series actually settled into a likable and occasionally funny rhythm.

“Ground Floor” is a straightforward workplace comedy with a romance at the center. Corporate money manager Brody (Skylar Astin) is a workaholic who meets the hot and charming Jennifer (Briga Heelan) at a bar. You know where this goes. After realizing the two work together — Brody as a “top floor” junior executive type and Jennifer as a “ground floor” grunt — opposites attract and sexual tension is established. Making matters slightly more difficult is Brody’s slave-driving boss Mr. Mansfield (John C. McGinley), who thinks ground floor and top floor don’t mix.

Yes, this all sounds familiar, and yes, some of the jokes (ball taps are gross and worse, not funny) are tired. But thanks to mostly solid writing that establishes likable characters and a good cast, “Ground Floor” is generally amusing.

Astin gives Brody a boyish goofiness to go with his corporate confidence, making the character’s mild douche tendencies tolerable. If you liked Astin in “Pitch Perfect,” you’ll like him here — he even sings at the end of the pilot.

Heelan does less with her basic tough-girl with a heart, but she delivers her comedic lines with gusto and has good chemistry with Astin. Their banter is mostly fun, with rare banality.

While McGinley is always strong in the jerk boss role — he’s basically Dr. Cox from “Scrubs” in a suit — another supporting character steals the show. Rory Scovel’s Harvard, a ground floor coworker of Jennifer who went to community college thus earning his moniker, is sometimes hilarious and always injects energy into every scene.

I can’t say “Ground Floor” is groundbreaking or great, but it will take you by surprise ... in a good way.

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Photo courtesy of TBS