'The Unicorn': Walton Goggins Flexes Comedy Muscles in New CBS Sitcom (Review)

CBS' The Unicorn is Sons of Anarchy star Walton Goggins' latest swing at comedy, and once again, the 47-year-old actor clears the stands in this touching satire detailing online dating and life after losing a loved one. Thanks to an equally brilliant supporting cast, The Unicorn has the talent and humor to overcome its odd title. It finds the humor in a tragic situation, with a heartwarming center.

Goggins stars as Wade Felton, a father of two daughters whose wife Jill died a year ago. In the pilot, his quartet of married friends — Delia (Michaela Watkins) and Forrest (Rob Corddry), and Michelle (Maya Lynne Robinson) and Ben (Omar Benson Miller) — try to help him realize it's time to move on. After all, he and his daughters Grace (Ruby Jay) and Natalie (Makenzie Moss) can't live on the frozen meals everyone gave him after his wife died forever. Their idea is to set him up with a dating app profile.

The second the profile goes live, Wade gets dozens of responses, which he finds puzzling. Michelle explains that he is the perfect guy because his status as a father and widower proves he can handle commitment. It makes him a "unicorn," hence the title.

The pilot puts all this story in motion incredibly well, thanks to creators Bill Martin and Mike Schiff sneakily hiding exposition into jokes and one-liners between characters that also serve to establish their personalities. It all kicks off with a hilarious montage of short scenes between Wade's friends brainstorming how to help Wade, which leads into a contrasting montage showing how Wade and his daughters live.

The Unicorn sets itself up to be a series of awkward dates week after week after the date that dominates the pilot's second half, but thankfully it is not. The second episode, airing Oct. 3 shows Wade growing out of his master status, going to a widow support group and coming upon a hilarious realization. It also features a brilliant guest performance from Betsy Brandt as the group's leader. The following episode tackles a dilemma Wade finds himself in, leading to a string of humorous engaging realities.

The Unicorn stands in strong contrast with the Chuck Lorre-style outrageous sitcoms that usually dominate the CBS line-up. None of the characters are heartless or evil, and no one is making jokes out of insults. There's a strong sense of community built into this show at the start, likely because the premise and its characters are instantly relatable.

Outside of sinister Western parts and parts on uproarious shows like his HBO work with Danny McBride on Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones, Goggins fits into this role perfectly. His character does not want to just go on "pity dates," and it's obvious the seasoned actor wants to do more than give a "pity performance."

There is a long history of sitcoms featuring fathers raising girls without the help of their mother, but The Unicorn goes about things differently. The focus is on Wade's future and not obsessing about a past that could never be recreated. He is, like many people today, just searching for happiness. Thankfully he has a great support system to help him — and the audience — find humor in darkness.

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The Unicorn airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

Photo credit: CBS