The Class - an early look
When I previewed rough-cut pilot of The Class (premieres Monday, Sept. 18 at 8 PM ET) back in June, I had my doubts about whether the loose association of the characters in the show would be able to withstand the rigors of a long-term series. The finished pilot didn't change my mind. But CBS was nice enough to include the second episode on the same screener as the pilot, and I'll tell you this: the show has potential. It seems an especially good companion for How I Met Your Mother, which it will preceed on Mondays, since both cater to the same late-20s crowd. But The Class does so without the cutsiness that can sometimes seep into HIMYM.
More on the second episode in a second (and a more complete review the day it airs). The "loose thread" I mentioned in the last paragraph is that the eight friends are brought together by Ethan Haas (Jason Ritter), who wants to reunite his and his fiance's third-grade class and throw his beloved a surprise party twenty years after they first met. Unfortunately, things don't go asa planned for Ethan.
But that's not the important part; the important part is that we meet seven other people from that third-grade class. We have opposite twin sisters Kat and Lina Warbler (Lizzy Caplan and Heather Goldenhersh); Kat's a cynical photographer and Linda is an emotional sort who wears a red bucket hat because it looks "jaunty." Richie Velch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is a depressive sort who goes to the party and meets someone that gives him hope. Duncan Carmello (Jon Bernthal) still lives with his mom and still pines for the one that got away, Nicole Allen (Andrea Anders), who is now married to much older former football star Yonk Allen (David Keith). Meanwhile, Holly Ellenbogen (Lucy Punch) is still angry at Kyle Lendo (Sean Maguire) for sleeping with a boy at their prom; he's happy in his relationship, and so is she... even though she doesn't notice something unusual about her husband Perry (Sam Harris).
Got that? Yep, that's a lot to keep track of. But the pilot does a good job of keeping everyone straight. Which makes sense, since producers David Crane (Friends), Jeffery Klarik (Mad About You), and James Burrows (Cheers) are used to juggling storylines for ensemble casts. Unfortunately, because of this juggling, we just scratch the surface of all the characters in the pilot, which is what gave me my intitial negative impression. Kat, Linda, and Richie are the only ones that stood out for me, and it seemed like Ferguson was channeling David Schwimmer for the entire half-hour. Yes, there were some funny lines in the pilot, but not enough to make me want to stick around.
But the second episode shows more promise. Now we see the relationships aligning and strengthening, as things play out the day after the infamous party. Since the humor is starting to come more naturally from the characters themselves and not one-liners, the episode is definitely funnier than the pilot. And we avoid the awkwardness in the David Keith scenes, where it definitely looks like they reshot his scenes in the pilot after they recast him in the part (if you look closely enough, you'll see the previous actor who played Yonk in the background of some of the party scenes).
So, if you are underwhelmed by the pilot of The Class, hang on for another week or so. Your patience will pay off, and then you won't have to figure out what to watch before HIMYM starts.