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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!
THE CAPTAIN (CBS)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: See above.
The plot in a nutshell: Despite winning an Oscar for his short film, life has not gone well for Josh Flum (Fran Kranz) in the past five years. In fact, all he has to show for it since then is a job at the Coffee Bean and a case of sciatica. His best friend/manager/recent father Marty (Chris Klein) however thinks he's about to turn the corner as an apartment has opened up at the famed "El Capitan" building where he lives. Left between that or having to move back home to New York, Josh reluctantly agrees and it's not long before "The Captain's" offbeat collection of residents begin to intrude on his daily life. There's Jesus (Al Madrigal), the "pronounced with a J-not-an-H" bellhop who can't keep a secret; "Uncle" Saul (Jeffrey Tambor), a washed up "Three's Company" (or "TKO as we used to call it," he notes) writer who spends his days having odd debates with Jesus; Astrid (Valerie Azlynn), a wannabe starlet who puts additional letters on random words for some reason; Charlene (Raquel Welch), a former soap vixen who sets her sights on Josh; and Hope (JoAnna Garcia), an aspiring Chinese medicine practitioner whom Josh immediately falls for. Together they hope to inspire Josh, whether it be Astrid suggesting he help her prepare for an audition; Charlene pitching him an erotic thriller she hopes to star in; Saul taking him golfing; or Hope helping him with his sciatica. He also gains a roommate in the form of Marty, whose wife kicks him out after discovering his affair with a shampoo girl (don't ask). In the end, the residents put Josh on the right path, whether he likes it or not.
What works: Far more charming than it has any right to be, "The Captain" actually proves to be a lot fun - thanks to a great cast and some nice touches by creator John Hamburg ("Meet the Parents"). From Chris Klein's Ari Gold-esque Marty ("$8,300. That's how much Wilmer Valderrama spent on condoms last year.") to Jeffrey Tambor's sad sack Saul ("I've been here for 26 years, four marriages and 79 episodes of 'Three's Company.") to JoAnna Garcia's bewitching Hope ("I see you're pitching a pup tent there," she nonchalantly remarks while giving Josh acupuncture), there's a solid collection of weirdly offbeat, but thankfully not too over the top, characters. "The Captain" itself also proves to be an interesting character - there's a subtle, old Hollywood feel to the building, such as how each apartment is linked by an antique rotary phone system, that wisely doesn't overplay the mood it's trying to get across. Combined they all help make "The Captain" as magical as advertised.
What doesn't: On the flip side, the show is very much an acquired taste and very much not a show you'd expect to see on CBS. "The Captain" straddles a weird single-camera line that's hard to pigeonhole. Not quite the delicious over-the-topness of "Arrested Development" or even the straight faced kookiness of "The Office," not quite the zany fantasy that is "Scrubs" or even the low key twist on reality that is "Everybody Hates Chris," "The Captain" is - as Saul even points out at one point - an island in the middle of the ocean of Los Angeles. In other words, you'll either immediately embrace it for its uniqueness or quickly dismiss it for its decidedly offbeat nature...
The bottom line: ...and in either case, I'd keep this one on the radar.