‘Cooper Barrett’ Review: Bro Comedy Is a Female-Friendly ‘Hangover’

Movie alum Justin Bartha costars in this diverse and mostly funny bro comedy

Fox’s new sitcom “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life” celebrates bro bonding much the way “Entourage” and the “Hangover” franchise did but with one noteworthy exception — women are actually in on the fun.

Instead of being nags or props, the female costars on this series, which debuts Sunday night, are just as fleshed out and funny as their male counterparts, and the comedy is all the better for it.

Cooper (Jack Cutmore-Scott, “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) is a post-college millennial who shares an apartment and a number of insane predicaments with his two best pals. Determined to reclaim his lost youth, Cooper’s older brother Josh (Justin Bartha, “Hangover”) often tags along and bails out the gang. In the first four episodes alone, the quartet battles a kidnapping, a stolen flat-screen TV and cellphone, two car accidents, a rent money shortage, a drug trial gone wrong, and a tow-truck conundrum.

But Kelly (Meaghan Rath), Cooper’s neighbor and the object of his desire, and Josh’s wife Leslie (Liza Lapira, “Super Fun Night”) have a fair share of humorous pratfalls too, including a menage a trois misunderstanding, an invitation to an ex’s wedding and a karaoke bar brawl.

Credit co-executive producer Gail Berman or Fox’s development team, but the audacity to include self-actualized women in a bro comedy makes “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life” refreshingly more akin to “New Girl” than “Hangover.”

The fact that both actresses are Asian and that Cooper’s buddy Barry (James Earl of “Glee”) is African American is also wonderfully inclusive but subtle. Barry, for instance, often sports a Frederick Douglass T-shirt, possesses a lucrative family recipe and challenges a couple of white partygoers when they ask a racially offensive question.

But he’s also an awkward eccentric who thinks Gru actually stole the moon in “Despicable Me.” Charlie Saxton (“Hung”), meanwhile, appeals as the group’s lovable nerd Neal and Cutmore-Scott is just the right amount of handsome but goofy as Cooper.

Unfortunately for Bartha, he is pretty much playing the same role he did in “Hangover” with a slight Ari Gold gleam in his eye. More of a stick-in-the-mud lawyer than the party starter, Josh constantly complains that his little brother needs to get his life together all the while reveling in his ability to save the day. If the show is lucky enough to stick around, Josh will have to become either less available or more accepting.

If Fox wants “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life” to survive, execs should consider removing it from the Sunday night roster and pairing it with “New Girl” on Tuesdays, because of its tone and target audience. Until then, hopefully bros and the people who love them will discover the show and watch it as it gets better with each week.

“Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life” debuts Sunday Jan. 3 at 8:30 pm ET on Fox.