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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three 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 or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 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 entry:
THE SINGLES TABLE (NBC)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "In this comedy, a group of witty and single strangers -- Ivan (John Cho, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"), Eli (Conor Dubin, "Close to Home"), Adam (Jarrad Paul, "The Shaggy Dog") and Stephanie (Rhea Seehorn, "Modern Men") - meet at a wedding and suddenly realize they have one thing in common, they are each a party of one stuck at a remote singles table. Because of their solo status and tenuous relationships with the bride and groom, they are all destined for Table 18, a far corner of the wedding reception. But through the course of the party, each emotionally vulnerable person questions his or her life's issues and vows to make it better. For richer or poorer, these five kindred spirits will grow to become good friends -- and, in some cases, they may become more than that."
What did they leave out: A fifth regular - Georgia (originally played by Pascale Hutton) - is being recast.
The plot in a nutshell: Ivan (John Cho), Eli (Conor Dubin), Adam (Jarrad Paul), Stephanie (Rhea Seehorn) and Georgia (Pascale Hutton) are the runts of Doug and Martina's group of friends and hence are banished to the dreaded "singles table" at their wedding. Eli is Doug's boss, who was only asked to come out of protocol; Adam is their rabbi, who's trying to break free from everyone's "nice guy" preconceptions about him; Ivan is the bitter divorcee, still angry at his ex; Stephanie is the perpetually single one, who's always attracted to losers; and Georgia is Martina's out-of-state single friend who's vaguely weird about her work as a doctor. Together they're the misfits - whether it be Georgia for continuously being mistaken for a bridesmaid because of her reused dress, Eli for being lied to by Doug about his time away from work or Ivan for being the friend the couple decided to shun in favor of his ex. Nevertheless, they start to bond with each other - Eli makes doe eyes at Georgia, Stephanie finds herself strangely attracted to Ivan and Adam, well, just hopes the other four will start to see him as something other than a rabbi. For better or worse, the quintet decides they need to stick together and make plans to see each other again.
What works: It's more or less the John Cho show as the other four characters basically orbit around his antics. His character is from the "The Office's" Michael Scott school of comedy in that he basically keeps on talking until everyone's uncomfortable - whether it be a wedding toast that goes horribly wrong or accidentally letting it slip that Doug lied to Eli in order to get more time off from work for his honeymoon. He's the only one that brings life to a somewhat uneven show.
What doesn't: The rest of the cast feels decidedly bland by comparison. They're not really funny, just harmlessly cute, which is essentially the feeling you'll get walking away from the show. And if you've had your fill of the "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" routine, you're in for a long ride here. Eli and Stephanie in particular spend the bulk of the pilot talking about how they're sick of being the guest at the wedding instead of the participant. It's unfortunately their only real character trait as we're given little else to sympathize with or latch on to. There's also the question of the somewhat loose premise - the five will basically meet up at some Doug and Martina-related function each week, leaving one to wonder how quickly the show will paint itself into a corner. To its credit though, a few seeds are sown that could lead to at least some of the five meeting up on a regularly basis. Truth be told now that I think about, it actually could be kind of refreshing to see friendships build organically instead of simply "we're best friends" after 30 minutes. I'm definitely on the fence about this show, hoping to make the leap over.
The challenges ahead: Ditto from "Andy Barker, P.I." - will NBC make room for another new comedy on its drama and reality packed schedule?