Usually quick over-the-top dialogue and sex crazed young New Yorkers aren’t enough to make me hate a show — I watched and sort of enjoyed all of the first season of How to Make It In America. But in the case of MTV’s new scripted sex comedy I Just Want My Pants Back, I was left thinking, “I just want that hour of my life back.”
You know a show is trying too hard to be edgy and overt when people are having sex in refrigerators, friends are comparing love bites in the corner bodega and thumbs are used in weird anal sex play.
The basic premise is this: Jason, a receptionist at a crumby casting agency, has a one-night stand with a girl who really wants to have sex with her head in his refrigerator (Literally. That’s not street talk for any new positions). We’ll call her Jane Doe. After an amazing bout and some mind-numbing too-cool dialogue, she asks to borrow his pants. She leaves her phone number and heads out. The only problem is that’s not her number. It’s the number for a Thai restaurant.
Well Jason can’t believe it. So he shuffles around town, having strange sexual encounters with various sketchy New York stereotypes while searching for his pants.
He has a friend named Tina. She’s as dirty as she looks. Tina meanders through bars and parties with hair that’s badly in need of a wash and a desire to help her friend Jason get laid. She talks about pooping after getting high in a bathroom. She has sexcapades that include: taking a boy’s virginity and getting a vampire bite from a lawyer in a taxi.
Jason and Tina’s other friends are Eric and Stacey, an interracial couple in graduate school. They play Wii, study for exams and buy mattresses at Macy’s while contemplating who should be on top and whether or not a foursome is right for them. They’re like the hipster version of How I Met Your Mother’s Lily and Marshall.
Night after night there are silly sex sequences, things that Samantha Jones could barely wrap her head around, not because they’re so risqué, but because they’re so dumb and gross. And to top it all off, our main characters speak in some nouveau-hip lingo that’s a cruder version of Diablo Cody’s dialogue from Jennifer’s Body.
MTV adapted I Just Want My Pants Back from the novel of the same name. I have not read the entire novel, only excerpts. But the show and the book don’t seem to match. The dialogue is tame and realistic in the book. The narrator version of Jason is funny and normal. The scene he lives in is much less grimey too. The girl who took his pants is a chapter in his life, a short novel for entertainment, not his entire being. Yes, there’s still sex in the fridge, but the tone of the book differs. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps as the book goes on it becomes the show, but from what I’ve read it’s off.
The show is a major step in the wrong direction for MTV. With great series like Teen Wolf and Awkward, I had hoped that I Just Want My Pants Back would be another fun take on young adults, sex and life. Instead it’s like My Life with Liz meets Not Another Teen Movie meets a late night with Zoe Kravitz in a dumpster pool party just outside Williamsburg. It’s all kinds of wrong.
The thing about Awkward, which has some sex in weird places (hello dollhouse), crazy characters and whacked dialogue is that it’s all for a purpose. The show has meaning and layers. The uncomfortable moments help us connect to the absurdity of our heroine’s situation and understand her struggles. In the case of I Just Want My Pants Back there are no layers. There’s no deeper meaning. The characters are shallow and the driving struggle — who is Jane Doe and where are Jason’s pants– also lacks depth.
MTV wants us to believe in the pants/girl search because under his crap job, lack of ambition and dirty hair Jason is a nice guy. We’re supposed to like him because he’s a cool hipster who really wants to make a relationship with Jane Doe. But I’m convinced he literally just wants his pants. And the fact that this is the most interesting thing in his life, the center of every conversation and catalyst for action despite having a crap job in 2012 America comes off as pathetic.
It also shows that MTV learned nothing from their failed sex comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger, which also started as completely shallow before attempting — and failing — to find some deeper meaning and a more complex plot. But even RJ Berger had an interesting creative team that referenced film and pop culture. I Just Want My Pants Back lacks creativity and instead of referencing pop culture, it’s built around a specific subculture which, in my opinion, shouldn’t be idolized.
And I understand the vibe they were going for; something edgy, witty and unapologetic. But it doesn’t work. Just as Glee lives in an alternate reality that allows teens to send other teens to crack houses, I Just Want My Pants Back lives in an alternate reality; a carefree hipster sex-fueled dream world that very few live in, mostly because it spreads STDs.
Did you watch I Just Want My Pants Back? Did you like it? Did you think the novel was better? Tell me in the comments!