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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!
UNHITCHED (A.K.A. THE RULES FOR STARTING OVER) (FOX)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "From the creatively fruitful minds of the Farrelly Brothers comes a single camera comedy, set in Boston, about a group of newly single friends learning the painful lessons of starting over in their 30s. They'd all love to get remarried, if they could just find their true loves. JACK "GATOR" GATELY (Craig Bierko, "Cinderella Man," "Boston Legal") is a charismatic, optimistic leader who never expected to be single again. But now that he is, he's determined to make the best of it. He's going to sift through all the bruised, damaged, occasionally psychotic fruit until he finds "the one." Joining Gator in bachelorhood redux is his thrice-divorced best friend TOMMY (Johnny Sneed, "The Guardian," "Fever Pitch"). The founder and brewmaster of an upstart microbrewery, Tommy has a voracious appetite for food, beer and women. He falls in love easily and always disastrously, yet truly hopes his fourth starter marriage will be "the one." DR. FREDDY SAHGAL (Shaun Majumder, "24," "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle") has seen some pretty strange stuff during his years as a successful surgeon, but he's never seen any of it through the eyes of a single man. Probably the least equipped of the group to handle this unexpected life change is Dr. Freddy, who can execute a triple bypass in his sleep, but is all thumbs when it comes to the opposite sex. Rounding out the group is KATE (Rashida Jones, "The Office"), a smart, successful attorney who handled all three of the boys' divorces. Having just turned 30, Kate finds herself dumped after a seven-year engagement. She reluctantly joins the guys in negotiating the treacherous waters of dating. Kate owns the brownstone next to Gator's. Over time, this pair may find that "the one" is just a brick wall away."
What did they leave out: Johnny Knoxville somehow got convinced to make a brief cameo here as a pimp.
The plot in a nutshell: Soon-to-be-divorced Bostonian Jack "Gator" Gately (Craig Bierko) informs us that dating in your 20s is a lot like going to the farmers market first thing in the morning - all the fruit is fresh and plentiful. Dating in your 40s on the other hand is like showing up at closing time and having to search through the bruised and damages ones. Case in point: his current date is creepily attached to her roommate - a silverback monkey. And she wants to be "taken" like one, a sequence which results in Gator nearly getting raped by the aforementioned monkey. Luckily, as his nebbish friend Freddy (Shaun Majumder) tells him after an examination, the monkey never "crossed the goal line." He too is facing an uphill battle now that he's back in the dating scene, as are their fellow friends Tommy (Johnny Sneed) and Gator's divorce lawyer Kate (Rashida Jones). In Kate's case, it's that her current beau is a lot shorter than she is. Not helping matters, he also happens to be Lucky the Leprechaun, the team mascot for the Celtics. As for the womanizing Tommy, it's just a question of who will be wife number four. Meanwhile, Gator has a few non-monkey related problems of his own - Freddy calls him with the news he's inadvertently ran up a $8,000 bill with a call girl who hustled him; one of his work clients has drunkenly thrown herself at him; and his soon-to-be-ex-wife-that-he's-not-quite-over unexpectedly has shown up with the hope of getting back together. Thankfully it's a set of predicaments that forces him to decide to move on, despite knowing the horrifying single life that lies ahead.
What works: Craig Bierko does his best to try and mug his way through things but...
What doesn't: ...boy is this one a clunker. At best a leisurely collection of gross out jokes (monkey rape! rectal exams!), "Rules" is a decidedly laugh free examination of the post-marriage dating world. Let's put it this way, when you have Craig Bierko's ass being examined at least once each act there's definitely a lack of material to be found here. The rest of the cast likewise isn't given much to work with - Johnny Sneed's Tommy gets to hit on an underage girl and reveal he's a microbrewer; Shaun Majumder's Freddy gets to put his head in a cotton candy machine and reminisce about the time a woman's water broke during a cervical exam; and Rashida Jones's Kate tries to put on a brave face during her date's halftime show and tells Gator the detainees at Guantanamo Bay got a better deal than his divorce settlement. Believe it or not, that's pretty much it. And considering its pedigree - Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly executive produced and directed - it's undoubtedly a disappointment.
The bottom line: If the idea of a monkey sexually assaulting Craig Bierko is top shelf humor to you, you're in for a fun ride, otherwise...