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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: THE STUMPS OF HOLLYWOOD (CBS)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: See above. But for you trivia nuts, this project was originally conceived as a starring vehicle for Pamela Anderson before she signed on to "Stacked."
The plot in a nutshell: Upon learning of their father's death, three white trash siblings - Jack (Michael Rapaport), a deadbeat gambler; Tammy (Marissa Jeret Winokur), a clueless barfly whose home schooling of her son Nathan (Tony Gentile) consists of telling him static electricity is the devil sneezing; and her twin sister Crystal Stump (also Marissa Jeret Winokur), the smart one by comparison - return to their family home in Rochester to pay their respects. More importantly, they're there to get their share of the proceeds from the sale of dad's only valuable possession - his house. But rather than split it up and go their separate ways, Jack - in a rare bright idea - suggests they pool their money together and give one of them a complete makeover, move to Hollywood and use their newfound good looks to earn fame and fortune. The sisters reluctantly agree and a spin of an empty beer bottle is used to determine the lucky sibling. Amusingly as the bottle spins each imagines their potential futures - Jack thinks women will pay to have sex with him because he's so good looking, Tammy will finally be able to bed her ultimate crush Joey Lawrence (who appears as himself in a fun cameo) and Crystal will get a Normal Rockwell-esque future with a husband and kids - until it finally settles on Crystal. Fast forward a few months and Crystal is now played by Nikki Cox. It's a transition that proves to be everything they hoped it would be - "I finally understand why girls like Paris Hilton, Tara Reid and Christina Aguilera walk around dressed like whores...," Crystal muses, "because they can!" But after moving to L.A., Crystal finds her newfound beauty is also something of a curse. Before she could tell within a few seconds if a guy was shallow and now she has no idea what to think. Such a scenario plays out when she catches the eye of a hot young director who thinks she could be an actress. Unfortunately for her, he inevitably proves to be a douchebag after making a few unflattering comments about Tammy. Horrified, Crystal wants to pack up and move back home but Tammy and Jack talk her out of it as, after all, they each own a third of her new body. Together then they'll have to find a middle ground in their quest for fame, fortune and true happiness.
What works: A spin-off of "My Name Is Earl" in spirit (not surprising considering creator Greg Garcia is behind both), "Stumps" is very much in the "lifelong loser makes good" vein. And thankfully it turns out to be just as good. Nikki Cox has never been more charming, as she sweetly sells Crystal's transition, while Marissa Jeret Winokur is just as fun as the boozy Tammy. Despite her "inferior" looks, the latter proves be quite the "man"-izer as a few drinks can make any man think she's a "hepatitis free Pamela Anderson." Her interactions with her son also prove to be among the pilot's highlights, as her daily lessons range from having Nathan dig up a worm or telling him that long division is a myth. That, wrapped with Garcia's usual offbeat touches - shout outs to "Smokey and the Bandit," needle drops ranging from Beck's "Loser" and the Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey," Tammy mistakes a man (not Ernie Hudson) to be "the black Ghostbuster" and willing-to-play-along cameos (the aforementioned Joey Lawrence) - make this one a real gem.
What doesn't: While it doesn't have the "lightning in a bottle" quality "Earl's" pilot had...
The bottom line: ...it's still very much the type of fun, sweet and genuinely funny show that belongs on TV.