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As of this writing, 49 (er, 50 now with "Love Monkey" getting picked up by CBS) new scripted series will debut during the 2005-06 season on the six major broadcast networks. Those 49 projects were culled from the 120 or so pilots shot during the past development season. So what happens to those 70 or so pilots that didn't get picked up? Most likely nothing at all. A few like NBC's "noTORIous" and FOX's "Windfall" found homes elsewhere (VH1 and NBC respectively) while others may get a midseason order later this year. The overwhelming majority however will simply collect dust on their respective studio's shelves.
So are there any hidden gems that are being stored away? We've been lucky enough to get our hands on a couple of the pilots that didn't make the cut and will review one each day until our stock runs out (which unfortunately will be sooner rather than later).
As always there's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:
(half-hour single-camera comedy)
The network's description: NBC did not release an official description of the series.
What's its current status: As reported here and elsewhere, VH1 has picked up the project and given it a series order of eight episodes for an early 2006 start.
The plot in a nutshell: Dating sucks for Tori Spelling (Tori Spelling). Everybody either wants to date her in order to meet her famous producer father or to live out some weird "90210" fantasy. Why can't she just meet a nice, normal guy? It's question she frequently asks herself (through the show's narration) and her two best friends Sasan (Zachary Quinto) and Janey (Danielle Nicolet). As luck would have it though, she does meet a nice guy (apologies, as I didn't recognize the actor) - the lighting tech on her latest job, a Lifetime original movie. The problem: she's worried about looking normal in front of him. After all, not every guy's dating experience includes the infamous daughter of a Hollywood mogul. Not sure how to proceed, she turns to her parents for advice but dad is nowhere to be found (except as a voice that beckons through a loudspeaker - wink, wink) and mom (Loni Anderson) would rather sell off the family's old junk on eBay than pay attention to her daughter. Left to her own devices, Tori opts to throw a party at her new condo, hoping the relaxed atmosphere will give her potential new beau a chance to get to know the real Tori. But as you'd expect, things don't go smoothly thanks in no small part to her rambunctious "roommate" Pete (James Carpinello) and a surprise appearance by her neighbor Farrah Fawcett (playing herself). In the end, her worries prove to be frivolous as in spite of the mess, he confesses his mutual attraction.
What works: Tori Spelling turns out to be a surprisingly funny and charming lead. She appears more than willing to make fun of her own life/career and such forthrightness definitely helps elevate the "poor little rich girl" premise. This is especially evident in the show's amusing flashbacks, which detail her childhood as being almost like a circus funhouse. Just as fun is Loni Anderson's turn as Tori's eBay-obsessed mom Kiki.
What doesn't: That being said, the show seems a little too in love with its more "insiderish" aspects. The characters name drop like nobody's business, so much so that it comes off as a list of "isn't it cool we mentioned X, Y and Z." Furthermore, the plot itself is flimsy at best (it's literally Tori meets a guy and bashfully kicks her feet in the dirt until he notices her) as one definitely wonders how the producers would have managed to churn out 22 episodes a year. That being said, you can totally see why a network like VH1 would pick this up and order a more abbreviated run. It definitely fits in with the channel's "Celebreality" branding except with a much sweeter core. I can't say I'd seek this show out, but it's certainly a breezy way to spend a half-hour.
Should you be sad it wasn't picked up: As noted previously, you'll get your chance to see "noTORIous" early next year. But if it had died altogether, I would walk away with the same "take it or leave it" feeling.