Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall TV: New comedies

Better With You (ABC) - I didn't have very high expectations for this, but I actually thought it was pretty funny. Joanna Garcia and Jennifer Finnegan play two sisters, Mia and Maddie. Maddie is the older, a lawyer who's been with her boyfriend Ben for nine years but has never gotten married ("a valid life choice"), and Mia is the younger, apparently more free-spirited sister who gets engaged to doofy but good-natured Casey after less than two months of dating. Rounding out the cast are the girls' parents, Joel and Vicky (welcome back to TV, Kitty Forman!).

The pilot gets a lot of laughs out of comparing the three couples, which I don't know how long they'll be able to keep up, but the writing seemed sharp enough and the cast played nicely off each other. But I can't help but feel like Joanna Garcia is just...better than this. She's so natural and likable and just a great actress that I want her to be in something truly great and not just okay, which is what this is. I'm willing to give it a few episodes though.

Raising Hope (FOX) - I laughed at this one too, but it was kind of an uncomfortable funny. I mean, the setup for the show is incredibly wacky - Jimmy has a one-night stand with a girl who turns out to be a serious wanted criminal; she gets pregnant (of course) and soon after giving birth, is executed by electric chair, leaving Jimmy with the baby. Uh...yeah.

Jimmy's family is...lower class? His parents had him when they were very young also, and his great-grandmother (Cloris Leachman, in various stages of undress...yes, this is supposed to be funny but is really kind of disturbing) and cousin Mike also live with them. So none of these people are really suited to raise a baby and I guess there's the show?

I do like the cast....Lucas Neff, who I've never seen in anything before, is suitably dim but kind of endearing as Jimmy, Martha Plimpton is pretty great as Jimmy's mom, and I always like Garret Dillahunt. But I have this slight guilty feeling laughing at these characters and this sort of lowbrow humor. This show is from the same creator as My Name is Earl, which had a similar sort of appeal. I lost interest in that show after a few episodes, and it's not hard to imagine the same thing happening here.

Running Wilde (FOX) - I was a big fan of Arrested Development. So like many others, when I heard that the people behind that show were creating a new one with Will Arnett (who was hilarious as Gob Bluth and in various other things) and Keri Russell (who I've always loved despite the terrible last season of Felicity), I was pretty excited. But early reaction wasn't very good, and I understand why. The show's just...not very funny.

The premise is that Will Arnett plays Steve Wilde, a rich, spoiled heir to an oil fortune, who, with the help of his loyal driver, decides to change his life and go after his childhood sweetheart, Emmy (Keri Russell), a humanitarian who has been living in the Amazon jungle with her daughter, Puddle. (Yes, these are clearly the same people who came up with the name Maeby.) Puddle hates the jungle and wants to be a "normal" kid so she and Steve come up with a plan so she and her mom can stay in the States.

I like Will Arnett and think he's really funny, but he just doesn't really work as a romantic lead. And while Keri Russell is still gorgeous and does fine with what she's given, Emmy isn't very relatable either, and I didn't find any reasons to want to root for these characters to get together. The humor is clearly very Arrested Development-esque but feels strangely tired. I did like Puddle, and they were smart to have her also be the narrator, but that's not really enough. I can see how this might be the kind of show that needs a little time to grow and figure out what it wants to be but I wonder if that'll actually happen, and if FOX will even allow it to.

Mike & Molly (CBS) - Just like Running Wilde was clearly from the producers of Arrested Development, Mike & Molly is clearly a Chuck Lorre CBS sitcom. It manages to feel slightly fuddy-duddy despite the many sex jokes, it has a laugh track, and is respectably funny. Melissa McCarthy (Sookie from Gilmore Girls and Dena from Samantha Who? among other things) and Billy Gardell are the leads, a Chicago school teacher and police officer who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Unlike with Running Wilde, these two have a really natural chemistry and it's not hard to imagine years of their relationship if the show is a success.

Mike's "side" is populated by his partner, Carl, and Samuel, a waiter at their favorite lunch spot, while Molly's contingent is her mother, the always fabulous Swoosie Kurtz, and sister Victoria (who looks and acts like a younger version of Chloe from Make it or Break it...). There are a lot of references to weight and diets, obviously, but I hope that it doesn't devolve too much into making fun of Mike and Molly. They're the leads, but I gather they're going to be more the "heart" of the show, trying to make their relationship work despite their own demons and the craziness of their friends and family. It's really not that bad an idea of a show. I can't stand Two and a Half Men, but The Big Bang Theory eventually really grew on me, so we'll have to see if this show can win me over or not.

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