Ned and Stacey: Season 1
January 3, 2006
Ned (Haden Church) is a cynical, self-absorbed advertising agency executive. Stacey (Messing) is an idealist who writes for The Village Voice. They are set-up on a blind date by their friends and its love and hate at first sight. He’s superficial and she’s all about substance. She’s a left-winger and he’s a self-proclaimed “no winger.” Sounds like the perfect couple, right? Ned and Stacey was a short-lived sitcom that developed a small, buy loyal following. They have now been rewarded as Sony has released the first season of the show on DVD.
Stacey is looking for an apartment so that she can move out of her parent’s house while Ned is in danger of losing a lucrative promotion if he doesn’t get married in order to impress his boss and appeal to their family-oriented clients. So, he and Stacey decide to get married and move in together but it isn’t going to be that easy and much of the show’s humour is the continual clash of cultures and beliefs between the two.
Thomas Haden Church is so good at playing a complete bastard. He brings a natural sense of humour and comic timing to his role. No matter how insensitive he is, we still find him kind of likable because he occasionally shows glimmers of humanity. The show works so well because of his cutting sense of humour. It was an edge that was completely softened on his stint on Wings (hence his premature departure) but was restored on Ned and Stacey and later, the movie Sideways (2004).
It’s interesting to see Debra Messing in a pre-Will and Grace sitcom. Ned and Stacey was her first TV show her character clearly anticipates Grace. Stacey is smarter and less annoying but still a neurotic mess—albeit with an edge. Messing is the ideal foil for Haden Church. She is the irrational straight man to his snarkiness. She also doesn’t put up with his crap, giving as good as she gets and out of this forms a grudging respect.
The majority of the show’s humour is derived from the situation of two completely opposite people living together in a marriage of convenience but deep down they are attracted to one another. The dialogue is snappy and has its own rhythm. It is funny and you can tell that the cast is clearly having a blast with it.
It’s amazing that this show was even aired let alone lasting as long as it did – two seasons in total. The premise alone must’ve been problematic for the network: two self-absorbed people getting married for all the wrong reasons. Like the characters in Seinfeld (which is also set in New York City), the characters in Ned and Stacey don’t particularly care if the audience likes them and that’s what gives the show its edge. For example, in one episode we see the cutthroat world of corporate America first hand as Ned gleefully rubs it in a rival’s face that he got married to get his cushy promotion over him. There is a sarcastic attitude that is prevalent throughout the show and a welcome alternative to the shiny, happy people of most other sitcoms. Ned and Stacey would go on to become even more surreal as one of the main cast would be killed off in an episode only to come back in the next one.
With these kinds of things going on, it’s not surprising that people like Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) and Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) would eventually write for the show before it was prematurely cancelled during its second season. Ned and Stacey may have been a classic, opposites attract story wrapped in a sardonic package but it was too acerbic a show for mainstream audiences. Fortunately, this DVD has been released so that its fans can enjoy what was produced during its brief stint.
There is a retrospective featurette entitled, “Strings Attached: Ned and Stacey, Season One.” Thomas Haden Church, Debra Messing, Greg Germann and Nadia Dajani are back for brand new interviews as they reminisce about their experiences working on the show. Haden Church admits that he initially thought that the premise was weak but liked the characters. He would often sit in with the writers and improvised on the set. Initially, show creator Michael J. Weithorn didn’t think that Messing was right for the role but a second reading convinced him.
There is also an audio commentary on the “Pilot” episode by series creator Weithorn. Despite only lasting two seasons, he considers the show a success. He ends up fleshing out some of the comments he made in the featurette (i.e. casting Haden Church and Messing) with some decent anecdotal information on this low-key track.