Fx has bitten off more than it can chew with the new comedies "Starved" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. " It's true that since "Friends"...

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FX has bitten off more than it can chew with the new comedies “Starved” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

It’s true that since “Friends” departed, Thursday night is the loneliest night of the week on TV. There are hits — but none that provide imaginary companionship.

“Starved” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” theoretically could fill the void. Each features a group of urban-dwelling pals around the ages that Monica, Chandler and company were when “Friends” first aired.

But FX, home of gritty action-dramas like “Rescue Me,” “The Shield” and “Over There,” is not about to compromise its image by turning cuddly with comedy. If anything, the new shows seem determined to repel viewers as some sort of litmus test.

“Starved,” at 10, is about a quartet of New Yorkers with eating disorders. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” at 10:30, follows the crude antics of Irish Catholics running a local pub.

Both programs contain a fair amount of — there’s no nice way to put this — puking.

On the one hand, that makes sense: bulimia and binge drinking. On the other hand, these things could be a lot funnier than they turn out to be.

I say this without any sense of political correctness. Certain groups are angry about the attitude that “Starved” brings to eating problems. To that, one must note that if compassion were the byword of comedy, nothing would be fit for consumption.

“Starved,” the better of the two series, gets off to a promising start. Tonight’s pilot introduces us to four friends linked by mutual self-loathing and destructive behavior.

There’s rich, dark material here. Sam (Eric Schaeffer) digs a discarded brownie out of the trash and eats it. He’s so bedeviled by insecurity and image issues that he tries to perfect his girlfriends to the point of mental abuse. He’s a complete jerk.

His friends — who meet each week at a tough-love rehab center called Belt Tighteners — are Adam (Sterling Brown), a New York City police officer; Billie (Laura Benanti), a bisexual singer; and Dan (Del Pentecost), a writer.

In the most illustrative comic scene, Adam pulls over a Chinese deliveryman on a bicycle and threatens to cite him for a traffic violation unless the man surrenders his cargo.

We see Adam wolf down the food, then use his nightstick to disgorge the contents. He does so over a piece of plastic that turns out to be sheltering a homeless person.

That’s the graphic nature of “Starved.” Still, such uncompromising vulgarities aren’t what make it difficult to digest.

The simple problem is that “Starved” is more dark and despairing than humorous.

Tonight’s pilot ends with a series of vignettes showing each character at home, alone, wrapped in individual cocoons of despair involving food.

It’s profoundly moving, but it’s also a theme that dominates the show’s center in subsequent weeks as “Starved” turns into an orgy of desperation and pat psychology of the “Daddy hates me” type. Under such circumstances, any humor feels forced.

Even tonight, efforts to be funny can seem more inflicted than organic.

An early scene in which the three male members of the group arbitrarily compare a certain portion of their anatomy using a food scale is ridiculous, not gut-busting. A future episode focusing on colonics feels cruel, not clever, when the misogynistic Sam is left “hooked up” too long.

Worse, it was hard to be sorry for Sam. “Starved” has given us four unlikable people without one iota of offsetting appeal in the first three episodes sent for review.

Yes, I know that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has proved you don’t have to like the character to love the show. But in “Starved,” at least, misery doesn’t love company.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has its antecedents in another Larry David production, “Seinfeld.”

The show features four working-class types: Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day) and Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson).

The three guys own an Irish bar; the girl is the bartender. Yet aside from their sex, they’re not particularly distinct from one another, even after three episodes.

Like “Seinfeld,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is driven by various small follies that the characters pursue and which eventually wind back and intersect. Episode One turns the pub into a gay bar and has a racial subplot; Episode Two has the three guys’ trying to score with various girls by pretending to be interested in their political causes.

That sounds promising, but the creators don’t take advantage of these scenarios to cast any illumination into human nature. Unlike “Seinfeld,” the plotting often is sloppy and illogical.

Episode One ends by getting one character so drunk, he wakes up in bed with a man. Episode Two includes a 12-year-old boy’s throwing up after drinking beer while waiting in the pub. It’s supposed to be outrageous; it’s merely dreary.

A few critics have suggested that FX dub tonight’s 10 to 11 block the “Men Are Pigs Hour” because of an apparent misogynistic tilt. That’s being oversensitive. “The Eating, Drinking and Puking Hour” would work just fine.

Kay McFadden: kmcfadden@seattletimes.com