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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: BUSINESS CLASS (NBC)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: "Kirk is a traveling soda salesman without a conscience. He'll break into the competition's luggage for their secrets. He'll take advantage of a bereaved client's vulnerability in order to make a big sale. He'll do whatever it takes. Then there's Terry, Kirk's inexperienced new partner who's as straight as an arrow. In the frenzied world of airports, hotels and soda sales, it's up to Kirk to show Terry the ropes. But will they hang each other out to dry before each week's adventure is over? Only time will tell in this fresh buddy comedy."
What did they leave out: Dave Thomas (at least I think it's him) makes a brief cameo as Kirk's father.
The plot in a nutshell: An unnamed narrator/lawyer (Peter Keleghan) gives us a Rod Serling-esque introduction to our heroes - the alpha male, "always be closing" Kirk (Mark Valley) and the henpecked, inexperienced Terry (Horatio Sanz), two soda salesman for the purposely-vaguely-named "Fred Cola" that are embarking on a 42-day, 35-city business trip to help launch the company's latest flavor. Kirk's the type of guy who will push a baby stroller out of the way or smash other passengers bags to fit his in the overhead compartment on an airplane. Terry then is the type of fellow who turns to butter at the news his newborn child just ate five raisins and counts the minutes between phone calls with his wife. In any case, Kirk is tasked with showing Terry the ropes on the first leg of their trip - Gretschmer Family Markets in Duluth, Minnesota. On the way there they stumble across Felicity (Krista Allen), a rival salesman for the also purposely-vaguely-named "Ethel Cola." It seems that Kirk has tried to seduce Felicity no less than 64 times to no avail, a fact that gets him even more riled up to land the Gretschmer deal. Sensing she has an ace up her sleeve, Kirk convinces Terry to help him steal her suitcase where they discover their new prototype flavor is so good, it could very well put Fred out of business. The pair then turn to their panicky boss ("Alias" vet Kevin Weisman) who in turn calls on the mysterious "fixer" (Beth Broderick) for advice. Unfortunately for them, her satellite feed from the summit of Mount Everest (don't ask) gets cut off, leaving Kirk and Terry on their own. Their plan: try and charm the Gretschmer family. Aiding them in their quest is Amy (Jae W. Suh), their relentlessly upbeat sales coordinator who takes it upon herself to assimilate the local culture (i.e. using a Minnesota accent, loving cheese, etc.). In any case, when all is said and done it's Terry the comes through in the end as his family loving ways help him bond with the owner.
What works: Valley, Sanz and company all appear to be having a good time and there's a handful of fun gags - from the narrator reading Narrator magazine on the airplane; to Kirk's habit of watching an episode of "Touched by an Angel" before each sales meeting to drain all the emotion of out himself; to Kirk remarking that "everything exciting, different and colorful about the United States was eliminated sometime in the 1980s" followed by a montage of indistinguishable hotel concierges welcoming them to their respective cities - but overall...
What doesn't: ...it's not really that funny or even really that amusing. Everything just has a vague feeling of "wackiness" about it instead of actually being funny. Look out, Kirk just stole Felicity's briefcase! Oh no, the client they planned a fishing trip for actually died two weeks ago! Funny? Um, maybe I guess. Vaguely wacky? Sure, why not. All that's left to save the show are the above non-sequitors, which I probably would have forgotten if I hadn't taken notes. Not helping matters is the borderline intrusive narrator, who's supposed to be there to "clear up any legal issues" (soda companies apparently have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to lawsuits) but really just ends up killing any momentum the show has at that particular point by literally freezing the action. On the flip side, one can't help but admire the show trying to do something new and different (I'll take a show about traveling salesman any day over another spoon-fed family sitcom). Unfortunately in this case, it didn't quite come together.
The bottom line: A forgettable miss, even if it was a noble experiment.