Right now you have the rare opportunity to watch both a new American sitcom and the British show it’s based on. The Free Agents that stars Hank Azaria on NBC is about two PR execs (Azaria and Hung’s Kathryn Hahn), their romance, and the difficulty it can cause in the workplace. Meanwhile, BBC America is airing the original version of the show, with Sharon Horgan and Episodes’ Stephen Mangan as similar characters. On both shows, Buffy’s Anthony Head plays their cheerfully lewd boss.
Azaria’s Agents got off to a bad start, with a frantic pilot and mediocre ratings. But the second episode was an improvement creatively: Azaria’s Alex and Hahn’s Helen displayed some mature-adult chemistry. It may not be enough to save the series, though. By contrast, the Brit original has a lot of sass and flashes of real poignancy. This is an example of how casting a less conventionally attractive lead (Mangan versus Azaria) helps convince you that a character can be awkward, amusingly so, about his single life and his attempts at romance. In each version, Head is a delight. He’s calling on the old allure he projected in the series of Taster’s Choice coffee commercials that aired in the ’90s, which redeems his Agents character’s smutty musings. NBC’s Free Agents: C+ BBC America’s: B