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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!
(Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c this fall)
The network's description: "Less about saving the environment than male bonding, four guys from very different backgrounds relish their daily commute as they commiserate about their lives, jobs and families in the carpool lane. There's Laird, the recently divorced playboy; Aubrey, the timid homemaker and breadwinner; the conservative and traditional Gracen; and eager newlywed Dougie. Together, between the pressures of home and work, these men find time to be themselves while driving to and from the office."
What did they leave out: Surprisingly that about covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: An amusing sing-a-long to Air Supply's "I'm All Out of Love" introduces us to our heroes - Aubrey (Jerry Minor), Gracen (Fred Goss), Laird (Jerry O'Connell) and Dougie (Tim Peper) - four pals whose only solace from their respective problems is their 45-minute commute to work together each day. For the henpecked Aubrey, it's a chance to avoid his family. For the neurotic Gracen, it's to muse about whether his wife Leila's (Faith Ford) newfound success in real estate means she's making more money than him (and subsequently makes him less of a man). For the newly divorced Laird, it's to brag about his latest conquest. And for newbie Dougie, it's just an opportunity to try and fit in. The thrust of the plot then is spent on Gracen's aforementioned issue, which is sparked by his wife's purchase of an expensive new toaster. This prompts Laird to look into her bank balance, which in turn puts Gracen in the fetal position and unwilling to go to work. The boys then take it upon themselves to steal the aforementioned toaster, hoping it will get him out of his funk. Unfortunately for them, they're discovered mid-robbery and Gracen is forced to come clean to Leila about his fears. Luckily for them, that's all Gracen really needed to do in the first place as - gasp! - it turns out she's really not doing as well as he thought. Between all this then we're introduced to Gracen's Napoleon Dynamite-esque son Marmaduke (T.J. Miller), who literally walks around in his underwear all day, and Dougie's supportive wife Cindy (Allison Munn).
What works: The group's carpooling antics supply a few amusing bits - such as their daily competition with a group of rich carpoolers for the remaining parking spots - and T.J. Miller's Marmaduke is something of a hoot - unfortunately...
What doesn't: ...this is still the same old song and dance we've seen a million times before with the carpooling aspect serving as the "fresh coat of paint" so to speak. The show's central plot - a guy agonizes that his wife might make more money than him, the horror! - is about as stale as the cliche that things that have been done to death are as stale as day old bread. Fred Goss, so fun and ready with a quip in "Sons & Daughters," turns up as a shadow of his usual self here while Minor, O'Connell and Peper don't do much to elevate their characters beyond the chalk outlines they're imagined as. The show's few saving graces then are provided by its examination of carpooling etiquette and the "I can't take my eyes away" weirdness of Miller's character. Other than that, don't expect much more than the thin synopsis above.
The bottom line: Not terrible in any specific way, just mind-numbingly been there, done that.