[07/11/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Out of Practice" (CBS)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.

There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:

(Mondays at 9:30/8:30c this fall)

The network's description: "OUT OF PRACTICE (Monday, 9:30 PM) is a comedy about a family of physicians who share the same profession but have little else in common. Ben Chase (Christopher Gorham, "Felicity") is an earnest young couples' counselor whose family doesn't consider him to be a "real" doctor because he doesn't have "M.D." after his name. But despite their lofty credentials, Ben might be the best prescription for the future of this family. Stockard Channing ("The West Wing"), Henry Winkler ("Happy Days"), Ty Burrell, ("In Good Company") and Paula Marshall ("Spin City") also star."

What did they leave out: How the producers of "Frasier" (Joe Keenan and Christopher Lloyd) and such a talented cast can create such a painfully bad show.

The plot in a nutshell: Ben Chase (Christopher Gorham) struggles to get the respect of his family, all of whom are doctors and all of whom disapprove of Ben's decision to become a couples' counselor instead of a "real doctor." There's dad Stewart the gastroenterologist (Henry Winkler), mom Lydia the cardiologist (Stockard Channing), sister Regina the lesbian emergency room doctor (Paula Marshall) and brother Oliver the plastic surgeon (Ty Burrell). The pilot revolves around Ben's attempts to get the family together for a nice dinner despite their busy schedules, not to mention Stewart and Lydia's divorce. As you might guess Wackiness Ensues (TM pending), which include such hysterical topics as hiding Stewart's new girlfriend from Lydia and the family hiding their contempt for Ben's vegan/cause-chasing wife.

What works: Honestly I was stunned for how laugh-free this show was considering the talent involved. And this is coming from one of the few people left who still enjoys sitcoms.

What doesn't: Oh sweet Lord where to start. It's hard to attack things like casting and plot when in the end there are just no laughs to be had here. Stewart's new girlfriend is his nurse! Hilarious! And she's blonde and hot! I'm busting at the seams! There's a misunderstanding about her and a message Ben's wife left! Oh my I can't stop laughing! Okay so perhaps I'm being too harsh. Not helping matters is I'm writing this after reviewing "Earl" and the dip in quality is painfully self-evident.

The challenges ahead: Is this really the best bridge between "Two and a Half Men" and "C.S.I.: Miami" now that "Everybody Loves Raymond" is gone? We'll find out this fall on CBS.

  [july 2005]  


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