Trophy Wife (2013)
Tuesdays on ABC
Pilot, October 1
I am pretty certain we have seen this plot before, on both the small screen and the theater-sized one. In fact, there are scenes that play out in ways that feel familiar in the cinematic scenario of the non-parent trying to be a parent, especially to the reluctant, and often rebellious teenager. That said, I laughed – a lot, actually. I have to credit the actors for this, as they bring to the table a unique quality and energy that helps transcend this done before story.
Malin Akerman is more likable than I have seen her before. She reminds me of Cameron Diaz in her delivery, and in the way she carries herself in this role. There is something so endearing in her portrayal of Kate, and her relationship with Pete (played by Bradley Whitfield) feels genuine from the moment we are thrown in to their crazy lives and well into the skip jump into the day-to-day life of their new marriage. Pete’s ex-wives are both brilliant, too, and they play through what could be a caricatured “doctor” and “hippy”.
Despite past history and undercurrents of jealousy, there is love between everyone, and it shows – not something that is always easy to do in situational comedy. This felt like a believable glimpse into the modern reality of “family” post-divorce, adoption, puberty and step-parenting. This is another to add to my list of “sitcom surprises” this season; the sitcom being a genre I typically do not enjoy.
The Crazy Ones (2013)
Thursdays on CBS
Pilot, September 26
When I first read about The Crazy Ones I must admit that I groaned audibly. You see, I work in the advertising agency world, and have since the late 90’s, and when I am off-work and away from the craziness of advertising I honestly and truly want nothing to do with it. This is the reason I have never watched Mad Men, and why I was not racing and rushing to check this pilot out. But, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Robin Williams are in it, two actors who I hold dear for both cinematic and personal reasons – both actors who have played roles that have meant things to me and my life. Thus, I was faced with a bit of a TV conundrum when it came time to check this new show out.
Did I love it? No. There were too many moments that had my stomach in knots, especially when 24-hour turn around and conference room pitches/near firings were taking place. I literally felt ill during some of it. But, there were also moments where I laughed myself to near tears, especially in the scenes between Simon (Robin Williams), Zach (James Wolk) and a surprisingly funny Kelly Clarkson (playing herself). The obvious improvisational moments with Robin Williams are the best parts, and James Wolk is a scene-stealer, and quite adept at keeping up with Mr. Williams (not an easy feat). Sarah was believable as the more serious daughter, but did not really capture me until she is forced to stand up in a crowded restaurant and sing a McDonalds jingle – it was in that moment that I started to like her.
Sydney and Simon are believable, so far as Father and Daughter. They are no Buffy and Giles, but I did see the nuances of history and love and let down between them.
The jury is still out on whether I will have the stomach to return for more episodes. I suppose it may all depend on what kind of a week I have had, as the viewing of the pilot did come at the heels of a really bad day in the crazy world of advertising. I guess I will have to see.
The Goldbergs (2013)
Tuesdays on ABC
Pilot, September 24
Maybe I have a soft spot for the time period, as it is the age I came of age in. Though, that said, I did not grow up in anything that even slightly resembles this family. The only real familiar moments, besides the pop culture references and music/television clips, was the fact that the downtown shots were four streets over from where I live right now, in the downtown of my small, Los Angeles suburban town. Still, even though I did not grow up in a family like the Goldbergs, or any traditional family unit at all, it was still both funny and endearing to me.
The best of the cast are the parents (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin), “Pop” (George Segal) and the older brother, Barry (Troy Gentile) who resembles, and presents himself, as a young Albert Brooks. The show itself is told in a very Wonder Years kind of way, even narrated similarily, this time around by Patton Oswalt.
This is not ground-breaking storytelling, and it may very well fall into tired cliches and nostalgia heavy overload, or it may grow into itself, going beyond the time period backdrop into a story about all the members of this family. I can honestly see it going either way. My initial thought take? It made me laugh, but may have worked better as a movie, in the style of something like The Wedding Singer.
The Michael J. Fox Show (2013)
Thursday Nights on NBC
Pilot, September 26
This show may be my vote for one of my top five favorites of the season. It has heart, but not pity. It takes on things like disabilities, sexual orientation and notions of marriage and family straight on and does not try to sugar coat any of it. The show has a real, authentic sense of humor and voice, and the moments where it turns itself outward, breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience, works and does not feel like a technique. The show also accomplished something that many of the other pilots have faltered over this season, it presented an ensemble cast in a flushed out and well-written way, causing me to care for all of them and feel as if I get parts of them already.
To me, this show is doing everything right.
The only slight criticism I might mention is the casting of Tracy Pollan as Mike (MIchael J. Fox) and Annie’s (Betsy Brandt) sexy neighbor, because honestly the undeniable chemistry between real life spouses Tracy and Michael just explodes off the screen when they are near each other, much more than we see with his on-show wife. Though, perhaps it works as Tracy’s character is supposed to be flirtatious towards Mike, something he later admits to enjoying not just because he finds her attractive, but because in his condition it was life-affirming (again, an honest look at how crushes are healthy and normal parts of life, even if you are part of a good relationship). It was just hard to look away from the two of them, and I can see why Tracy was an initial consideration to play Mike’s wife.
(Editor’s note: it was remarkable and quite beautiful to see two people have that much chemistry after many years of marriage, though)