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TV Squad previews ABC's new shows

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 22nd 2007 10:01AM
ABC logoIf we've learned anything about ABC over the last couple of seasons, it's that they like to introduce a buttload of pilots at their upfronts every year. But the problem with that is, that leaves critics like us with a ton of DVDs to go through, and not all at once.

We got the first batch of ABC pilots pretty quickly, but we decided to hold off on this post until we got them all in. And since there are so many, we recruited a gaggle of Squadders to tackle them all. So after the jump, Jonathan, Brett, JJ, Jen, Kevin and I weigh in on every ABC pilot except for Private Practice (Grey's fans already saw that pilot in May, remember). Remember that these are early cuts of each pilot; we'll reevaluate when the final cuts of these shows come in later this summer.

Sam I Am

Samantha Be Good (formerly Sam I Am)
(Monday at 9:30PM ET)

Premise of the screener: Samantha Newly, a victim of an automobile accident, wakes up from an eight-day coma with amnesia. She has no idea what she's done in the past, and her family, friends, and boyfriend are strangers to her. As she recovers, she finds out that the Sam that got run over was, for lack of a better term, a complete bitch; alcoholic, self-centered, and mean, she was estranged from her family and cheating on her boyfriend Todd. So, with a clean slate, Sam tries to fix the relationships that her pre-accident self messed up while figuring out who she is and will be.

Joel says:
On first blush, this sounds like a female, upscale version of My Name Is Earl. But the big difference is that Sam's amnesia brings a new element to the show; she finds out about her bad deeds at the same time we do. Christina Applegate shows that she has the comedic chops to carry this show on her (very lovely) shoulders, but anyone who saw her development from the last couple of years of Married... With Children through her turn in Anchorman knew she was capable of that. The supporting cast is strong: Barry Watson (What About Brian?) plays Sam's long-suffering boyfriend Todd, Jean Smart plays Sam's domineering mother, Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager) plays her wise advice-giving doorman, and Jennifer Esposito (Spin City) and Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls) play friends that influence Sam from opposite viewpoints. The pilot wasn't as funny as I expected, given the cast and the premise, but it had its moments, especially the interplay between Applegate and Smart. But if anyone can carry a show like this as it improves, it's Applegate. I'm curious to see more, which is more than I can say about a number of other ABC pilots.

Cavemen cast

(Tuesday at 8PM ET)

Premise of the screener: In what is probably one of the bigger gambles of the new season, ABC is trying to expand the popular Geico Cavemen commercials into a half hour sit-com. The show centers on the mild-mannered Joel. He is the voice of reason as we navigate the waters of just what it is like being a caveman in the modern world. Along for the ride are his fiancee Kate, his younger brother Jamie, and his militant roommate Nick. The supporting characters include Kate's parents. Her father is a brash, stick in the mud that hasn't warmed up to the idea of Joel as a son in law. Her mother is image conscious of everything, looking to say and do the right thing, but coping with doing it by drinking, a lot.

Brett says:
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The early clip that ABC released didn't look good at all. And it highlights what I think is holding the show back. At least in the pilot, they are way too focused on the racism angle. It's about as subtle as Aaron Sorkin was with religion in the beginning of Studio 60. The show really needs to worry about being funny first, and having a message later. The good news is that when they do go for a laugh, there is a lot to like here. I would have preferred to see the same actors from the commercials, but all of the Cavemen do a fine job.

It will be interesting to see how things play out once we have the Cavemen on the TV every week. The gimmick of what they are doing certainly runs the risk of wearing thin, but I think they have set up a world that is interesting enough to give them a fair shot at success. And it doesn't hurt to have the power of lowered expectations on your side. ABC has struggled to do anything remotely successful with a sit-com for a few years now. Even a modest success that is fueled by curiosity should be enough to give them a leg up.

(Tuesday at 8:30PM ET)

Premise of the screener: Three guys who have been carpooling to work forever have a new fourth member, and he struggles for acceptance. One guy thinks that his wife is making more money than him, his son gets a high paying job, and he's not sure where that leaves him. Another has been cleaned out in a divorce, and is trying to find his self-confidence by sleeping with any woman who gives him the time of day, and the other just wants everyone in the carpool to get along. The newcomer has his hands full trying to keep from being kicked out of the car. (Don't let that publicity shot fool you. They travel in a pretty boring four-door sedan in the show.)

Kevin says:
At face value say, in the local TV listings for instance, you'd see this show and immediately think, "What? A show about people riding in a carpool together? Why would I want to watch that?" Which is what I did when I first got this episode. However, if you do that you're in danger of missing a pretty funny show, which I thankfully did not. If you crammed Office Space into a carpool lane, you'd come up with something like this. At first it felt like a comedy sketch (not that strange, considering the fact that one of the executive producers/writers is Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Hall fame) that was going to go on a little too long but as you follow the trials and tribulations of these four men, it opens up a lot of possibilities. Ironically, the scenes in the car are the weakest out of the bunch.

There were several laugh out loud moments, which is rare for me while watching TV by myself, and several comedic turns that I didn't see coming. I'm chalking that up to the work of Arrested Development duo of Anthony and Joe Russo, who also executive produce and direct. The main son on the show seems to be a doing a Napoleon Dynamite impersonation (albeit a lot dumber), but damn if he isn't hilarious. Plus, after being such a Sliders fan, it's hard not to love 'pooler Jerry O'Connell. He's a lot funnier in this than he was in Tomcats, which I know ain't saying much. Still, despite the title, the premise, and the presence of Faith Ford, I really enjoyed this.

Pushing Dasies cast
Pushing Daisies
(Wednesday at 8PM ET)

Premise of the screener: Ever since he was ten, pie maker Ned has had the unusual ability to bring the dead back to life with just one touch. But the ability has restrictions: if the dead being stays alive for more than a minute, something or someone else dies, and if he touches the being again, he, she or it dies for good. For various reasons, grown-up Ned has gone into business with a P.I. named Emerson, using the ability to help them solve murders and gather the reward. But when Ned brings back his childhood crush, a girl named Chuck, they fall in love with each other all over again. The problem is; if he touches her again, he'll lose her forever.

Joel says:
The talent behind this pilot -- most notably, writer Bryan Fuller (Heroes) and director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) is evident in this show's style. The saturated colors, fanciful settings (Ned's pie shop is called "The Pie Hole"), and the narration from Jim Dale (from the Harry Potter audio books) invokes memories of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands phase, and matches the story's premise perfectly. The cast, which includes Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, and Swoozie Kurtz, is excellent. And the nerdily sweet chemistry between Lee Pace and the adorable Anna Friel (Ned and Chuck, respectively) carries the emotional core of the show. Just the tension of wondering whether Ned will accidentally touch Chuck is enough to keep me tuning in. Have I said enough about how much I like this show? Either it will be the breakout hit of the 2007-08 season or it will be buried like shows that have had similar themes, like Fuller's Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me.

Dirty Sexy Money
Dirty Sexy Money
(Wednesday at 10PM ET)

Premise of the screener: From the time that Nick George was a young boy, he was nothing more than a little mouse living under the shadow of the obscenely wealthy Darling family and their New York dynasty. After Nick's father's suspicious death, the head of the Darling clan pushes the altruistic lawyer to step into his dead father's shoes as the family's personal attorney. With the lure of absurd amounts of money to continue his good deeds as a lawyer, Nick quickly learns that there's also a dubious side of the Darling's money and the power it brings. Is money really the root of all evil? Nick George is about to find out.

JJ says: Even though he's not directly related to the family, that we know, Krause's character is unequivocally the sane one of the bunch. With a knock out cast that includes Donald Sutherland (Commander-in-Chief) as head of family Tripp Darling, William Baldwin (The Squid and the Whale, Backdraft) as the tranny-loving and soon-to-be senator eldest son Patrick Darling, and Natalie Zea (Eyes) as Karen Darling who's obsessively in love with Nick, this show has little reason to fail. As with any show packed with colorful characters, one of two things can happen. A show can either flourish and grow outward from the massive egos planted from the start or the characters can become one-liners who are flat and don't evolve as the show progresses. I really hope the former happens with this show because the premise, albeit a little worn, is perfectly pruned with the excellent acting and quick pacing that doesn't drag the viewer down.

Big Shots
Big Shots
(Thursday at 10PM ET)

Premise of the screener: Four is the magic number at ABC for friends apparently. ABC gives us the male version of Desperate Housewives with Big Shots: Four extremely wealthy CEOs are friends in New York City. They golf, they sauna, they complain about their wives. One is trying to escape a scandal that threatens his job. One is trying to protect his marriage through couples counseling, which backfires in some pretty unexpected ways. One has a wife who henpecks him, and one has a boss who just made a move that may allow him to land a promotion. As Dylan McDermott says: "Men: We're the new women."

Jen says:
Oh, I so wanted to like this show. It has a lot of really likable actors and actresses in it. Dylan McDermott (The Practice) is always a good watch. He is Duncan, head of a cosmetics company. Duncan is relaxed and suave, while at the same time being a little desperate (there is a scandal brewing). He clearly has a thing for his ex-wife, and he hired his 19-year-old daughter Kim to work for him, even though she hates him and embarrasses him at work. And a couple of nice moments. Joshua Malina, whom I loved on West Wing, plays Karl, the one who is in couples counseling. The writers actually made his character say that he is nerdy and lactose intolerant. His character is a caricature and nothing more. My second favorite character (which isn't saying much) is Brody, played by Christopher Titus, whom I didn't recognize. He is best known for a show called Titus that aired from 2000-2002. He is given ridiculous material to work with, but he does it well. One of the show's gimmicks is that we only see his wife from the back. I hate that. Last but not least, we have James, who appears to be the primary hero. And I'll go ahead and say what I wondered throughout season after season of Alias: How does Michael Vartan continue to find acting work? He's got a pretty face, but every time he opens his mouth, I forget that.

This show is terrible. The acting is stilted, the dialogue sounds like it was written by people in high school, and I didn't believe for one minute that these guys actually knew each other, let alone that they were friends. The actors don't listen to each other or really even look at each other. They just take turns delivering their pithy little monologues. It will probably be a big hit.

Women's Murder Club
Women's Murder Club
(Friday at 9PM ET)

Premise of the screener: Four strong, sexy, intelligent career women are friends in the business of murder. We are teased with whether or not their friendship came first, or the fact that they all work on horrific crimes on a daily basis. Lyndsey Boxer is clearly the heroine of the show, strongly played by Angie Harmon, best known as A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael on Law & Order. Lyndsey's friends are a coroner, Claire, (the hilarious Paula Newsome, who was a rigid hospital administrator in Little Miss Sunshine); an assistant district attorney, Jill, (the porcelain and fragile looking Laura Harris, whom I've seen a lot, most notably on 24 as a fiancee-turned-terrorist); and a pushover journalist, (Aubrey Dollar, who was on Point Pleasant). They share information, off the record, until the murderers they are chasing are behind bars. And sometimes they make mistakes...

Jen says:
Angie Harmon is a compelling actress, and a strong protagonist. But I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect her cheekbones are. I think the plot,s are interesting (I am a sucker for crime shows, and this is just as grisly as CSI), the story behind the friendships is a good tease, and Lyndsey's rapport with the "old and crabby" detective Warren Jacobi (The terrific Tyrees Allen who was the evil Gordon Dean on Alias) is easy and unforced. There is even a cute love interest in the mayor's office (whom I couldn't find a credit for) (even with the cliche'd beginning that the two start out disliking each other). The show has some good potential based on the actors' chemistry and the books by James Patterson, which I have read and liked. It may be a little fluffier than CSI, but I think it has some really good promise. I'll be tuning in.

Cashmere Mafia
Cashmere Mafia

Premise of the screener: Four extremely successful NYC executives do whatever it takes to balance their high demand jobs with their families, love lives, and each other. The catch? They're all women and the notion of fighting for a piece of the pie in a man's world is as evident as ever. To combat this, they've created their own support group. Cosmopolitan power lunches where hot gossip is exchanged, shoulders are cried on, and enemies are socially assassinated by picking up a Blackberry.

Jonathan says: In one sentence, here's what Cashmere Mafia is. It's Sex and the City without the f-word. So it comes as no surprise that Darren Star is one of the show's executive producers. This is a tried and true formula for him, but with the failure of the similar Girls Club (David E. Kelley was behind that one) from a few years ago and the recent success of Desperate Housewives, it remains to be seen how exactly Star's formula can work in the world of network TV, where his characters can't just say whatever they want. That being said, I think Cashmere Mafia might have the right mix. Now I happen to be one of the eight guys in the world who liked Sex and the City, so I was actually entertained by this pilot. As you would expect, some pretty standard conventions are covered though. From adultery, to work conflicts, and the occasional lesbian affair, nothing makes your jaw hit the floor. That'll be the challenge. To make this group of ladies intimidating while still giving them the same issues that all women have. The cast, which includes Lucy Liu and Bonnie Somerville, meshes really well together and I think there's enough diversity among the four main characters that audiences everywhere will find someone to root for. It is a midseason replacement though. Hopefully ABC has the smarts to not schedule it against the beast that is American Idol. If they feel like rearranging the schedule, it'd make a good compliment to either Desperate Housewives or Brothers and Sisters.


Premise of the screener: Former high school nerd Rebecca Freely has returned to her alma mater as a guidance counselor, confident that the lessons of adulthood will help her guide her students through the dangerous waters of high school. But through Rebecca's actions and narration, we learn that high school is high school, whether you're a student or a faculty member: there are rivalries, unrequited crushes, social strata, and lots of projects.

Joel says:
I've enjoyed Judy Greer's work since she was in Love Monkey, and she does a great job here as the high-strung, barely-has-it-together Rebecca. Brooke Burns also does a really good job as former cheerleader / current rival Lisa. Just like producer Ashton Kutcher's reality show, Beauty and the Geek, Miss/Guided embraces the nerd in everyone, even those who have shed the glasses, head gear, and Clearasil. This is a slyly funny show that has a great chance of succeeding if ABC puts it in the right spot in their schedule, and the recent addition of Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) as show-runner can only help. But, then again, that's what I thought about The Knights of Prosperity last year, and we all know what happened there.

Eli Stone
Eli Stone

Premise of the screener: Eli Stone is a successful San Francisco corporate lawyer who seemingly has everything. Then he starts hearing and seeing things that others can't. These visions are distracting him, but also leading him to change the direction of his life. When he finds out he has an inoperable brain aneurysm, those feelings are cemented. Now the issue is: is he ill or is he a prophet? Eli is still not sure.

Joel says:
The team that brought Brothers & Sisters back from the brink -- Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Ken Olin -- are the creative team behind Eli Stone. They've created a quirky little show that will either retain its charm while Eli sorts things out, or get lost in its own silliness, David E. Kelley-style. In fact, this show does seem like a cross between Kelley's Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, where Eli fights through his wacky visions while taking opportunities to espouse in issues of the day via clever closing arguments. But the cast -- highlighted by Loretta Devine (Boston Public) as Eli's assistant, Natasha Henstridge (Species) as his fiancee, Laura Benanti as the "other woman", and Victor Garber as Eli's boss / father-in-law-to-be -- does a great job, as does Jonny Lee Miller as Eli.

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@ matriculated,

Your right! That's so funny (or sad, depending on your perspective). The ironic part is that the Caveman show, which is supposed to have an 'anti-racisim message' as an undertone to the show,.. has an entirely white cast!

June 22 2007 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fine then you and Brett should be fired, you posted it.

June 22 2007 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

L'Emmerdeur-- thanks for the heads up. I fixed it!

Pushing Daisies was on one of my preview tapes, so I watched that too-- I have to say, I am pretty excited about it!

June 22 2007 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LAURA Harris, not Lauren. :)

June 22 2007 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel Keller

@David: Check who wrote the review (you know, where it states "Brett says", because, you know, Brett wrote the review).

June 22 2007 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Joel you are fired. Someone who doesn't hate Cavemen can not work in TV.

June 22 2007 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pushing Daisies is the one show I'm most looking forward to in the fall. I'm really worried about it finding its audience though...I'm hoping for the best because Bryan Fuller is all kinds of awesome and I'm looking forward to seeing Lee Pace on my television screen on a regular basis.

June 22 2007 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yep still a guy.

Thanks but no thanks ABC. I'll take a pass.

Someone shout when Scrubs and Heroes come back.

BTW here's a good question, which one or possibly two shows will make it to next year from this yawn list?

June 22 2007 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow! Almost every show has a lone token black person (probably in a non-threatening advisory role). Keepin' it real ABC!

June 22 2007 at 12:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i think for the first time in a fair while, i can be rest assured and say - there appear to be a number of new shows on the ABC that look like they may interest me.

i'm going to check out:
miss/guided - sounds promising.
eli stone - love berlanti purely on everwood.
carpoolers - funny? i'll watch it.
dirty sexy money - just looks GOOD.
samantha be good - C. Applegate can be very funny.
pushing daisies - from what i've heard i'll love this one and is getting alot of interest.

THAT'S SIX. i'm very much a fan of what NBC puts out generally lately. so i'm shocked in myself. maybe ABC have pulled it back a bit for me at last...

June 22 2007 at 12:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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