THE WAY NBC'S treating its newest show, "Bent," you'd think it was ashamed to be seen with it.
Unfortunately titled — if you miss the explanation in the pilot, you may not catch it again — and even more unfortunately scheduled — in back-to-back episodes for three weeks, following "Are You There, Chelsea?" and opposite ABC's "Modern Family" and Fox's "American Idol" — "Bent" isn't so much being added to NBC's lineup tomorrow as burned off.
Which is strange, because this unexpectedly charming, well-cast romantic comedy from Tad Quill ("Scrubs," "Spin City") represents something rare enough on NBC: a half-hour whose appeal might conceivably extend beyond the cable-sized viewership of savagely smart but more insular series like "30 Rock" and "Community."
Assuming anyone ever sees it, that is.
Amanda Peet ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") is Alex Meyers, a recently divorced lawyer with a daughter named Charlie (Joey King) and a yen for a new kitchen.
David Walton ("Perfect Couples," "The Loop") is Pete Riggins, surfer dude and recovering gambling addict and (wait for it) hot contractor.
Before you can say "Who's the Boss?" "Bent" has introduced Alex's wild-child sister (Margo Harshman), Pete's father (Jeffrey Tambor) — an unsuccessful actor whose motto, "Bent but not broken," is the basis for the title — and the members of Pete's justifiably suspicious construction crew. (Among them: "Friday Night Lights'" Jesse Plemons, once again teamed with a ladies' man named Riggins, and J.B. Smoove of "Curb Your Enthusiasm.")
I wasn't a huge fan of much beyond Tambor when I first saw "Bent's" pilot last summer, but NBC sent out everything it had for review and before I knew it I'd watched all six in one evening.
And on what I laughably call my own time. I laughed. In spite of myself and in spite, too, of NBC, which may no longer be able to distinguish comedy from kindling.
Trend alert: Like some other missing males this season, Alex's ex pulled some white-collar shenanigans. But at least he's just in prison, like the Bernie Madoff-like dad on CBS' "2 Broke Girls," not disgraced and dead, like Leslie Bibb's Amanda on ABC's "GCB."
Bottom line: The premise — boy meets girl, boy takes forever redoing girl's kitchen — may not sound fresh, but there's something cooking in "Bent" that's worth hanging out for.