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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
BONUS FIRST LOOK: HELL ON EARTH (The CW)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: See above.
The plot in a nutshell: A "My Super Sweet 16"-esque teaser - complete with knock-off title cards - introduces us to Keri (Kyla Pratt), the spoiled daughter of chain restaurant mogul David Diamond (Lamont Thompson). She thinks she's the next Beyonce in the making and couldn't care less about anyone besides herself. Fate however deals her a different set of cards as she dies in a car accident after trying to take pictures of herself while driving her new hoopty. In purgatory (or the Los Angeles Convention Center to eagle-eyed viewers), Keri is informed by an angel named Sera (Kim Coles) and a devil named Luc (Brian Palermo) that she died on the exact minute of her 16th birthday, technically making her too old for the automatically go to heaven rule but also too young to go to hell because of her earthly misdeeds. Left with no other options, the pair opt to send her back to earth to try and atone for her sins. There Keri learns she got more than she bargained for as her entire life has changed. Her father, now dubbed Dino, is a hard-working diner owner. Her mom (Dawnn Lewish), instead of being a fitness and fashion-obsessed housewife, is now a part-time substitute teacher that (gasp!) makes the family's own clothes. Even worse, Keri's forced to share a room with her flatulent grandmother ("Scrubs's" Aloma Wright) and is shocked to learn she has a younger brother and sister. Her social life has also received a makeover as her friends now don't acknowledge while her boyfriend (Collins Pennie) doesn't recognize her. It turns out all of said changes are the result of Sera trying to give Keri a newfound humility while she and Luc (who routinely take the form of various bystanders) keep score on whether she's making any progress. If she does, heaven awaits her. If she doesn't, it's off to hell (complete with gift basket) with Luc. The pilot then sees her straddle the lines between both sides - she covets a pair of True Religion Limited Edition jeans that will be her ticket back into the popular crowd but learns the value of a dollar by having to work at her father's diner for them - while Sera and Luc scheme to pull her to their respective sides. In the end neither Sera nor Luc win or lose as their battle will continue over the course of the series (should it have been picked up).
What works: To its credit, the show does a surprisingly amusing take on the MTV series - complete with a video of her absentee father ("I still remember the day your mother called to tell me you were born") as he gives her a new car - while both Kim Coles and Brian Palermo both appear to be having fun in their typical good girl/bad guy roles. Now if only it weren't so...
What doesn't: ...mind-numbly childish and silly. Nearly all the jokes are targeted at eight year olds (Grandma farts in her sleep, Keri muses "what is this Retardo Airlines?" while waiting in line in purgatory) while the central morality play is aimed at the same demographic (expensive jeans - bad, having heart-to-hearts with your mom - good). Kyla Pratt likewise proves only to have two gears - annoyingly spoiled or even more annoyingly spoiled. There's just very little subtlety to this show. I guess if this was the Disney Channel it wouldn't be so eye-rolling but as "Aliens in America" has proven, The CW can aim so much higher if they really tried.
The bottom line: The CW made the right choice here.