This season’s new sitcoms have been so uniformly conventional that the loose-limbed goofiness of Free Ride feels like a novelty. The “partially improvised comedy” follows a college graduate named Nate Stahlings (Josh Dean) as he retreats from the challenges of adult life to return home to small-town Missouri. But his comfort zone is gone—his parents have turned his room into a gym, and even worse, they’re too busy exploring their sexual fantasies (Mom wants to pretend she’s shtupping Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, Dad is hot for Katie Couric) to pay Nate much attention. His high school crush is engaged, his best friend has been domesticated, and the only guy in town with time to hang out is Dove, a boneheaded party animal who now toils away as an assistant manager at the local Kash Kutters.
Everything about Free Ride is slightly exaggerated and artificial, including the odd facial expressions. I haven’t seen such big toothy smiles since the era of Donny and Marie Osmond, but Canadian actor Josh Dean combines his dental endowment with disarming sweetness. As Nate, he trots through a series of galling misadventures, awkwardly wedged into an old life that no longer fits.