Network programming is pretty blah these days, unless you like game shows. That said, I did stumble across a likable single-camera comedy called “The Unicorn,” which airs on CBS on Thursdays at 9:30. Now in its second season, it’s just another hangout show with two suburban couples and a single guy (and their kids). It’s nothing to make a big deal about. But I like the chemistry among the friends, I like the ensemble of actors, and I Iike the fantasy that the writers play with.
The North Carolina-set show is built around Walton Goggins, who plays a recent widower named Wade with two daughters. Goggins has been a favorite since his unforgettable and complex work as Shane on “The Shield.” His fierce turn on “Justified” was also mind-blowing, even as the writers fiddled around a bit too much with his twisted character, Boyd. Goggins has also been brilliantly satirical in two Danny McBride comedies, “Vice Principals” and “The Righteous Gemstones,” in case anyone thought he could only do dramatic anger and sadism. As Wade, Goggins effortlessly makes the switch to network amiability, playing a guy who is genuinely nice and tuned into his kids. The writers treat him as a bit of a typically clueless sitcom dad, a musty cliché, but Goggins doesn’t reduce his character to one dimension.
Wade’s devoted friends gather around him and his daughters, and they think of him as a unicorn — the rare guy who is single, was happily married, and is not divorced. They’re really just another TV gang, but they are well-drawn, with Rob Corddry and the always good Michaela Watkins as compatible neurotics and Omar Benson Miller and Maya Lynne Robinson as the young-at-heart couple with four kids. This season, Goggins’s former “Justified” costar Natalie Zea is onboard as Wade’s eccentric new girlfriend.
The warmth of the cast is its most inviting aspect, as the pals work to protect Wade and his kids. His friends want him to date, but they also want to vet each woman, to make sure she won’t hurt him. They want him to mourn, and they make occasional (but not usually maudlin) mentions of his late wife, but they also want him to move on. They worry about him, they invade his privacy, they give him unwanted advice, they annoy him, but they clearly love him. As a loyal support system for a middle-aged man going through major life events, they’re a treat.