[07/20/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Pepper Dennis" (The WB)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

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:

(TBA at midseason)

The network's description: "Feature film star and supermodel Rebecca Romijn (�X-Men, � �Just Shoot Me�) stars as Pepper Dennis, a beautiful and ambitious reporter with her sights set on anchoring Chicago's top-rated evening news broadcast. Pepper's career is her top priority, but she does have close friends, especially the station's makeup artist Kimmy (Lindsay Price, �Beverly Hills, 90210�) and cameraman Chick (Rider Strong, �Boy Meets World�), who has a secret crush on Pepper. Complicating Pepper's daily life is the fact that her spoiled, needy and recently separated sister Kathy (Brooke Burns, �North Shore," ��Baywatch�) has moved in with her. Worst of all, the hot guy Pepper woke up with this morning, Charlie Bishop (Josh Hopkins, �The Perfect Storm, � �Ally McBeal�), just showed up in the newsroom, grabbed her dream job and is now practically her boss. She's trying to despise him, but Charlie is smart, handsome, funny, available and interested. Office romances can be so complicated."

What did they leave out: We'll get to this in a second.

The plot in a nutshell: Pepper Dennis (Rebecca Romijn) seemingly has it all - looks, great friends and a successful career as a TV news reporter in Chicago - except for one thing: a man in her life. She keeps telling herself and her best friend Kimmy (Lindsay Price) that love will have to wait until after the 2008 presidential election, but it still doesn't stop that nagging feeling Mr. Right could be around the corner. And so after celebrating her latest big scoop, Pepper finds herself having a one-night stand with a handsome stranger (Josh Hopkins) who (in a plot twist that was old when "Grey's Anatomy" used it last season) turns out to be the station's new lead anchor Charlie Bishop, a job she thought was going to her. As you'd expect, from here things quickly turn into an "I love you/I hate you" tug-of-war as they compete over stories and try to one-up each other in the newsroom. In between their skirmishes (which range from Pepper throwing eggs at a new billboard featuring Charlie to Charlie "accidentally" revealing Pepper's real name during a live broadcast), we meet the rest of the cast: there's Pepper's spoiled sister Kathy (Brooke Burns), who decides to leave her husband and crash in on Pepper's apartment and job; Pepper's cameraman Chick (Rider Strong), who harbors a secret crush on her; and Brett Cullen as her boss Jack. Eventually though, Pepper and Charlie reach a tentative truce, realizing they work better together than against each other.

What works: Rebecca Romijn is a strong lead and can easily carry a show while Price, Strong, Hopkins, Burns, etc. are likeable enough but...

What doesn't: There's no other way to describe this show than say it's really freakin' bizarre. All the characters (especially Pepper) act and speak in weird 1950s newsroom clich�s: (about finding a source) "there's a songbird out there and I just have to find him" and my personal favorite: "Hey Jack, you mentioned going after big fish. But you can't fish without a boat. And what's a boat without an anchor - a solid, truth-hunting and very photogenic anchor." Who in their right mind talks like this? You half-expect Lou Grant to stumble into a shot and say "the kid's got spunk!" There's just an overall goofy, offbeat tone to the entire show: the opening teaser, in which Pepper uncovers a day care operating without a license, is shot like a sniper preparing to take someone out; and when an immigrant window washer is trapped on the side of a building, Charlie (using a megaphone blasted from that station's chopper) uses his intimate knowledge of Polish (?!) to talk him through it. Like I said, it's really freakin' bizarre. I can't even really say the show is bad, it just operates on its own level. Whether that translates into a weekly TV appointment remains to be seen.

The challenges ahead: Between "Pepper" and "Related," is the WB audience ready to expand beyond its more teen-driven core? And is this the show to do it? We'll find out sometime next year on the WB.

  [july 2005]  


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