Who was it that said comedy is tragedy plus time? Well, judging by most TV comedies, ''tragedy plus time'' is a good definition for marriage, too: First the husband disappoints the wife (tragedy!), then they resent each other for the rest of their lives. Ha-ha! Thankfully, Married isn't one of those comedies. The couple, Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer), fight about the same old stuffthe bills, the kids, the fact that the woman must be tricked into sex. (''Something feels weird,'' Russ tells Lina every night, inviting her to reach below the waistband of his boxers.) But this isn't a clichéd show. It's a very funny show about how hard it is realizing you've become a cliché: the useless husband, the naggy wife, the insufferable couple on the sitcom.
There's something hugely empathetic about these characters. Lina knows she's turning into a bitter housewife, but she has a good sense of humor about it. While donating a bassinet to charity, she's asked to estimate what it cost. ''Um, my youth?'' she offers. ''Every time I cough, I pee a little?'' Russ might be headed for a midlife crisishe considers having an affair with the woman who waxes his ear hairbut he loves his wife so much that his phone-sex fantasies end with him threatening to impregnate her. You get the sense that if Russ and Lina weren't so miserable, they could be happy, in a we're-in-this-awful-thing-together kind of way. Admiring the house of a friend's fiancé, Lina sighs, ''God, I hope my next husband is this rich.'' ''Well,'' Russ says, ''you can marry him as soon as my second wife finishes high school.''
Somehow, they seem like the type of people you'd invite to a fondue party, which is a credit to the cast. Faxon (previously of Fox's short-lived Ben and Kate) is the breakthrough, an intensely lovable schlub who looks like a golden retriever with an overbite. Jenny Slate shows off her scathing wit as a friend of the couple'sa trophy wife with an aging husband (Paul Reiser). And everyone strikes the right balance of funny and sad that comes with accepting that you're an adult. When Russ' daughter asks him, ''Everything gets easier when you're a grown-up, right?'' his reply is unconvincing. ''Yeaaah,'' he says. ''Uh-huh.'' This from a guy who still has to bamboozle his wife into touching his underwear. People say that getting married and having kids will change you. And it doeskind of. But Married gets to the hardest thing about marriage: Your life may be different, but you're still the same person you were before you put that ring on. A-