The process of donating a kidney doesn’t scream “comedy” but that’s what the folks behind “Mom” have crafted in “B Positive.”
Based on creator Marco Pennette’s own experiences getting a transplant, the series is really just another take on “The Odd Couple.”
Here, the two are donor and recipient, living together to help the former through a rough patch.
Drew (Thomas Middleditch), a therapist, begins having renal failure and learns he will need a kidney. Because there’s a long list of people waiting for donors, he has to consider other options. Among them: getting one from Gina (Annaleigh Ashford), a party girl he sort of knew in high school. Although she’s what others would call a “hot mess,” she is a match. That prompts him to do something to help her change her life. Thus, the move into his home.
Naturally, this seems pitched at getting the two together, but Pennette doesn’t start down that path. He lets both live in their own worlds (she works at an assisted living facility; he bonds with fellow patients at a dialysis center), then brings them together at Drew’s home, where even the neighbors wonder what’s going on.
Because Ashford is so bubbly (and willing to play with the cast of veteran actors assembled to populate the van she drives), there’s hope here, even if the plot seems confining. “Bob Hearts Abishola” (another Chuck Lorre production) started with health care, too, and managed to spread into the leading characters’ family lives. Ditto: “Mom.”
Bernie Kopell (“The Love Boat”) and Linda Lavin (“Alice”) make solid impressions as two of Gina’s charges. They’re not afraid to question her decisions and push her in a more stable direction. “B Positive” doesn’t quite mine the senior world the way “The Golden Girls” did, but it doesn’t have to pander. Kopell and Lavin are Easter Eggs, popping up just when you need them most.
Middleditch doesn’t stray too far from his “Silicon Valley” person. He’s just as impressionable here as he was there.
Here, though, he has to keep up with Ashford, who’s a gale force of giggles. She commits to all sorts of physical comedy and isn’t afraid to take chances. When she’s riffing with Kether Donohue, as another party-friendly co-worker, she’s clearly “B Positive’s” star. How Middleditch holds his own will be the series’ biggest challenge. Clearly, he could be playing straight man for everyone in the dialysis center and the assisted living van.
“Mom” started with a tight focus on Anna Faris and Allison Janney. Now that Faris has left the series, it’s a much different animal.
The same could be true for “B Positive.” Pennette’s mission, though, is to keep Ashford in the fold no matter what it takes. She’s the A+ in this fairly middling comedy.
“B Positive” airs Thursdays on CBS.