The Ex List -- An early look
When I first saw the pilot for CBS's The Ex List back in June, something about it bugged me. Sure, it was pleasant enough, and the show's premise -- a woman goes back through her past to find "the one," based on a psychic's reading -- seemed like it was fertile ground for stories and funny moments. Add in the presence of the charming Diane Ruggiero as show-runner, and there was potential for a pretty good Friday night diversion.
But it did bug me, and I couldn't put my finger on it until I saw the new version of the show's pilot, which airs tomorrow night at 9 PM ET. Yes, it's nice and pleasant. Even funny at times. But I don't care at all about Bella Bloom, her friends, or her quest. In fact, that quest seems a little sad to me. And the departure of Ruggiero isn't going to make that any better.
The premise is established very quickly, almost too quickly: a psychic that Bella Bloom (Elizabeth Reaser) gets for her sister's bachelorette party tells the 33-year-old, perpetually-single florist that if she doesn't get married within a year, she'll die alone. In addition, the man she'll marry comes from the extensive list of guys she's been romantically involved with already. The term "romantically involved" is a loose one; it can be anyone from an ex-boyfriend to someone who had a crush on her in grammar school. Bella is told to look for "signs" to help her on her journey. She's helped along by the psychic, her too-bubbly-by-half sister and three friends that seem to be written solely to lie in a kiddie pool and spout bon mots.
In the pilot, Bella is lead by signs like bird poop towards a weepy singer-songwriter that she dumped on his birthday. Now he's all angry and dark and of course Bella finds him irresistible. And there's the rub: it seems like, by rehashing this list of people she dumped or dumped on her, Bella is just reliving her romantic failures and seems bound to be burned by them again. It's like My Name Is Earl meets Groundhog Day, but without any hope that Bella will become anything but more pathetic and desperate.
The San Diego scenery is nice, as is Reaser's beach bunny wardrobe (though it seems more suitable for a 23-year-old than a 33-year-old). The quippy Greek chorus that is made up of her friends, sister, and an ex-live-in-boyfriend who never wanted to get married seem to exist as moons that revolve around Planet Bella. For instance, in the pilot's B-story, best friend Augie (Adam Rothenberg) and girlfriend Vivian (Alexandra Breckenridge) argue over the deep and controversial topic of Vivian's shaved bajingo. Their stories may develop over time, but then again, the show may be so enamored with Bella's quest, that they may end up being nothing more than quote machines.
Based on what Ruggiero told Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger after she left the show, though, I doubt that's going to happen. CBS wants to adhere as closely to the original Israeli version of the show as much as possible, making Bella's quest the central part of the show, not just an aspect of her life. "I felt very strongly that she has to have a regular life, and this weird quest has to almost feel like a burden at times," she told Sepinwall. "She has to feel put upon, otherwise she bugs me."
She bugs me too, Diane. And now that you're not on the show anymore, I'm sure she'll bug me even more. Guess I'll need to watch something else on Friday nights.