NBC’s new comedy Bent is coming in late in the game for the 2011-2012 season, which makes the series seem more like an afterthought than a real contender. Perhaps that, and the limited promotions I’ve seen for the comedy are to blame for my general lack of enthusiasm going into the pilot. But I found myself pleasantly surprised, as Bent is well cast, smart, charming and funny.

Created by Tad Quill, Bent stars Amanda Peet as Alex, a recently divorced, single mother of a 10-year-old girl named Charlie (Joey King). Yay for girls with boyish names! Alex’s former husband is in prison for insider trading. When Alex buys a smaller house, she hires Pete (David Walton) a laid-back surfer-type, to fix up her house. Despite his flirtatious and relaxed but sometimes childish nature, which clashes greatly with the more controlling Alex, Pete soon finds himself interfering with her life.

While Alex has her sister Screwsie (Margo Harshman), Pete also brings a cluster of characters to the mix, including his father, played by the excellent Jeffrey Tambor, and his work-friends.

There’s a sort of fast-talking kind of humor about the dialogue in Bent, as the characters banter back and forth to a rhythm that kind of reminds me of Cougar Town. And there's good chemistry between Peet and Walton. Pete and Alex both have issues in their personal lives, which, added to the obvious sexual tension and the whole opposites attract thing, makes them a good fit for one another, assuming they’ll eventually get together. In the meantime, bickering seems to be their verbal foreplay of choice. The chemistry between

The additional characters do a nice job of breaking up the Alex/Pete moments. Bent's cast has a lot going for it, including Tambor as the wise but quirky father of Pete. One of Pete’s co-workers is Gary, played by Friday Night Lights’ Jesse Plemons. As the new guy among the group of handy-men, he’s sort of awkward and adds a bit of random humor to the mix.

Over all, Bent has a lot of potential, and seems to be finding its groove pretty quickly. It works out well that Modern Family is a rerun tonight. If you were looking to laugh this evening, check out Bent when it premieres at 9:00 p.m. on NBC (Wednesday, 3/21).

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