Accidentally on Purpose: Pilot (series premiere)
by Allison Waldman, posted Sep 21st 2009 9:02PM
(S01E01) Watching Accidentally on Purpose, thoughts of Seth Rogen danced in my mind. Not Seth, actually, but the film Knocked Up. This is the second year in a row that CBS seems obsessed with that film. Last season, it was Worst Week, with a schlubby Kyle Bornheimer channeling Rogen's goofy lack of grace. It didn't work and Worst Week bit the dust. Now we have Jenna Elfman in the Katherine Heigl role, knocked up by accident after a one-night stand, albeit with a twist. Instead of a schlub, Jenna's fling is a boy-toy named Zach.
And there you have the premise of Accidentally on Purpose. Are you ROFL? Will you LOL? Read on after the jump.
There are only two things going for this new CBS sitcom, Jenna Elfman and Ashley Jensen. The latter continues to be a reliable Rhoda, a sidekick with the funniest lines in the pilot, delivered in her wry, Scottish accent that never fails to hit the mark. As for Jenna, Accidentally really relies too much the charm and appeal that made her a star with Dharma and Greg. In place of a solid foundation for a sitcom, Accidentally is all about situation and not enough about comedy. It's yada-yada-yada-punchline. You can set your watch by the one-liners. (Does anybody still need to set their watches?)
I don't have an aversion to traditional three-camera sitcoms; I love them when they're done right (Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, New Adventures of Old Christine). However, much of Accidentally isn't sharply written, it's indicated. Instead of a real job, Billie's a film critic at a San Francisco newspaper. It's 2009. Is there even a San Francisco newspaper still in circulation, let alone a film critic who's getting paid? This is like Ann Marie being an actress on That Girl. It sounds good, but there's nothing in her character that connects to the position. One repro poster of Gilda doesn't make her a movie buff. A real buff would have the actual, original poster!
But I quibble because Billie's job doesn't really matter. The pilot is all about her getting pregnant, deciding to have the kid and the other kid, boy toy Zach, kinda/sorta moving in. There's the set-up. Will they fall in love? Will they bond over her big belly? Will her ex-love, the editor of the paper, want her back and fight for her?
There should be the promise of amusing comedy in every new pilot, but this one feels tired and clichéd. Jenna Elfman could use a lot more of the zing Chuck Lorre brought to Dharma and Greg. Billie is no Dharma. And the motley crew of friends that come along with Zach are yet another shout out to Knocked Up. Using the urn with grandma's ashes as a water pipe may be the height of hilarity to some, but for me it was just gross.
Elfman can do better and has in the past. Accidentally on Purpose is an accident to be avoided.