The 5 best sad-sack singles on TV

Ted Mosby's just the beginning -- TV's full of the hilariously (and poignantly) unlucky in love SLIDE SHOW

Topics: slideshow, TV, The Big Bang Theory, how i met your mother, the mindy project, stephen merchant, dating, The New Girl, singles,

The 5 best sad-sack singles on TV"The Broken Code" -- Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) takes his frustrations out on Ted (Josh Radnor) during the best man poker game, on the final season of How I Met Your Mother, Monday Oct 7 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS © 2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. (Credit: Richard Cartwright)

After nine seasons, CBS’s hit “How I Met Your Mother” is finally going off the air, and with it departs prime time’s perennial bachelor Ted Mosby. The show struggled with funny in its last few seasons, and so its lovelorn architect’s desperate efforts to find the right woman grew wearying. Whether or not you’re happy to see Ted settle down and cash out, there are plenty of other TV singles currently slogging through ill-fated dating (or non-dating) exploits every week. After all, a great romance can be inspiring, but there’s nothing like commiserating with the unlucky in love. Here are five of my favorites this season and one for good measure.

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    Sad-sack singles

    Winston Bishop, "The New Girl"

    Two seasons ago, Winston appeared in the episode after the pilot and has been at a disadvantage ever since. With Nick and Jess as the Ross and Rachel of the show, and the irrepressible Schmidt as the arrogant, boisterous, libidinous, deceptively sensitive funny one, Winston never seemed to have a true place in the loft. His career struggles were dull and his romantic exploits fell flat. Finally, it seems the writers have embraced his incongruity, run with it, and come up with something that works: Winston as the absurd ultra-loser who no longer even tries to exist in the normal world, preferring to live vicariously through his cat Ferguson. His obsession with completing puzzles was the funniest thing about the season 3 premiere. "I'm gonna do yooouuu, puzzle! Right on the table. As nasty as you wanna be. What do you think it's going to look like?"

    Sad-sack singles

    Raj Koothrappali, "The Big Bang Theory"

    Poor Raj is surrounded by couples. Last season he dated the only woman in the world whose social anxiety outpaced his own. Naturally, that was doomed. This season finds Raj finally able to speak to women but unable to hold their interest for more than a brief exchange of "dry factual statements interspersed with moments of painful silence." Things are looking up this season, though, as there are signs that Raj may hook up with the university's formidable human resources administrator, Mrs. Davis, played with unpredictable surliness by the fantastic Regina King. ("227" fans can cheer for King's return to sitcom television, if only for a short period.)

    Sad-sack singles

    Jessica, "Hello Ladies"

    HBO's new half-hour comedy actually centers around the bachelor life of Stuart Pritchard, a Brit living in Los Angeles whose weekly efforts to score with the titular ladies are ridiculous, embarrassing and intended to be the source of the program's mild humor. But Stuart is a pompous douchebag and, as such, incredibly difficult to sympathize with. His female roommate, on the other hand, is a lot easier to feel for. An actress who lives in Pritchard's guesthouse, Jessica is starting to realize she's getting too old for her wannabe starlet lifestyle. In the second episode, she throws an aspirational dinner party for her vapid friends with dismal results. And while she's still plenty attractive, the men in her life barely stick around long enough to shower after. (The adorable and versatile Christine Woods has been kicking around prime time for a few years now in supporting roles. Hopefully, she'll stick this landing.)

    Sad-sack singles

    Gil Brooks, "We Are Men"

    The CBS sitcom's single-camera comedy revolves around a group of divorcees and/or jilted men trying to regain their footing in an apartment complex for singles. While this process mostly seems to involve sitting by the pool leering and chasing after anyone in a two-piece, don't expect Kal Penn to slip into anything resembling the heedless manchild he made famous in the Harold and Kumar franchise. Here, a pudgier, softer-spoken Penn plays the good guy, the heart of the show. The sexed-up humor of "We Are Men" is often too broad and predictable, and Penn is fortunate to play the one dude more concerned with wrestling his ex-wife for quality time with his daughter than hooking up. Faced with an ornery canine while trying to make a camping trip with his little girl, Gil becomes convinced the dog is reacting to his dark skin. "I'm going to bust out of here," he says. "I just need to get past this furry bigot."

    Sad-sack singles

    Dr. Danny Castellano, "The Mindy Project"

    It's time to stop rooting for the irascible doctor to get together with series hero Mindy Lahiri. Sure, when the show premiered a couple years ago, it seemed clear that Castellano would be the Mr. Darcy to Mindy Kaling's Lizzy Bennet. But the truth is, the short, ruggedly handsome doc is much funnier alone and, yes, a little sad. This season, after breaking it off with sultry girlfriend Christina (Chloe Sevigny), he joins the "Getting Over It Gang" with Bill Hader, a bunch of heartbroken guys who play basketball and soak their sorrows in beer. Their pathetic post-game, all-hands-in chant is almost meme-worthy: "Just because we don't have wives doesn't mean we don't have lives. Single and cool! Single and cool! Single and cool!"

    Sad-sack singles

    Honorable Mention: Harris Green, "The Michael J. Fox Show"

    Unlike the others on this list, Harris has absolutely no problem with the opposite sex. As a high-ranking NBC executive and Michael Henry's (Fox) boss, he possesses power, influence and style -- all of which he liberally uses to put multiple beautiful women into his "rotation." OK, it's a throwback to Neil Patrick Harris' Barney from "How I Met Your Mother" or any number of morally challenged lotharios from the annals of TV history. But "serious" actor Wendell Pierce has tons of fun throwing his Big Man Swagger around. (In case you never got into HBO's "The Wire," a) shame on you and b) Pierce exhibited similar but much darker and more self-destructive qualities as a philandering homicide detective.) And that voice! Pierce is like a walking Barry White parody who hangs out with Michael J. Fox and gives bad, misogynistic advice to teenagers: "Why fix a beater when there are other cars on the lot?"

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Neil Drumming
Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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