Court scenes aside, Benched is more of a workplace comedy than a legal one. Rounding out the Public Defender’s office is the equally charming Phil (Jay Harrington from Better Off Ted, another brilliant comedy that ended too soon), who pretends to care a lot less than he actually does; Carlos (Oscar Nunez, The Office), who is the closest the office has to an idealist — he clashes with Nina when she steals one of his opportunities to do better in order to selfishly promote herself; weirdo Cheryl (Maria Bamford, occasionally bringing her trademark funny faces and voices to the character), who is around for runners more than anyone else, but it works; and Micah (Jolene Purdy), an under-appreciated intern.
All of the characters work well together — Coupe and Harrington especially have chemistry from the get go — and it’s easy to see that Benched isn’t just about Nina but is trying to create a well-rounded ensemble with characters who, as the season goes on, will all become more developed and get their own storylines.
Benched is one of those rare comedies where everything seems to click immediately, even when the premise and characters have been done before. Its surprisingly smooth execution and the acting make up for the handful of iffy exchanges (and dated references) that litter the script. Coupe is fully committed here — the third episode has her stuck in jail for the night, and much of the series finds laughs in gross body humor involving her character — and sells everything that she’s given.
If there is one major strike against Benched, it’s its network. USA doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do lately, or whether it even wants to continue with comedy. Hopefully, it will recognize that Benched is not only already a strong sitcom, but that it could very well become the strongest show the network has.