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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 WORLD ACCORDING TO BARNES (The CW)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: The screened pilot was actually shot as a "presentation," meaning it's more of a selection of key scenes (around 37 minutes by my count) rather than a full blown first episode. Should it have been picked up to series, the footage would have been expanded into a full pilot.
The plot in a nutshell: Bobby Barnes (a Topher Grace-esque Ryan Devlin) is the modern day Ferris Buller of Kelvin University, an esteemed graduate school where the nation's top scientific prodigies vie to become the next Einstein "or if things go wrong, the next Bill Nye, the Science Guy." There Bobby spends his days in a perpetual cycle of adolescence, whether it be inventing odd duck inventions like a head rest for public urinals or pulling pranks on the cranky Dean Knox (the-always-great-to-see Dave Foley). His delicate world however is about to be shattered as Knox calls upon all the students to present to the class their plans for the future - a virtual Kryptonite to the always keeping adulthood at bay Barnes - a presentation which will count for half their grade, not to mention installed a zero tolerance policy for any future tomfoolery by Bobby. Not helping matters - his stalwart girlfriend Sheri (Autumn Reeser) is also starting to ask what their future is. Thankfully Bobby has his friends to lean on - there's Nasser (Ravi Patel), Bobby's best bud who recently graduated, only to routinely run back to their dorm room; Tyler (David Walton), Bobby's Caligula-esque roommate who's more interested in chicks than grades; Jennifer (Smith Cho), who doesn't really have a shtick; and Ronald the Virgin (Hank Harris), the group's literal and figurative punching bag. Except in this case, they're making things worse. Tyler apparently has bedded the college president/soon-to-be-senator's (Tim Matheson) wife using Bobby's name and their latest rendez-vous has been captured on film, a fact a private investigator (the-also-always-great-to-see John Billingsley) hopes to exploit. It's up to the famed Bobby Barnes then to put out all these various fires, all of which inevitably lead him to find his true calling - being a private investigator/troubleshooter himself.
What works: A weird of mix of "Real Genius" (the students routinely perform bordering-on-science-fiction experiments), "Ferris Buller's Day Off" (the entire student body worships Barnes save for the Dean) and "The A-Team" (Barnes and company use a high tech van as their base of operations), "Barnes" actually proves to be a lot of fun. From its geek name checking (Tyler notes they "crossed the streams" after things go wrong) to its offbeat sense of humor (Barnes routinely quotes or references historic details incorrectly) to its only-on-TV ridiculousness (Barnes builds a portable magnet that will only pick up the frequency of a specific laptop), the show manages to create its own clever little world in 37 minutes flat. An equal amount of kudos goes out to an extremely likeable cast, most notably the sure-to-turn-up elsewhere Devlin.
What doesn't: Weirdly in a case of "if it were any other year," "Barnes" doesn't quite compare to the similarly toned/humored "Reaper" (which we'll get to next week) or NBC's "Chuck." With those two setting the bar so high, one can't help but be underwhelmed by "Barnes" in comparison. Not helping "Barnes's" case is a scattershot first half, which doesn't quite settle into a consistent tone until the head-and-shoulders better second half. That being said, this is definitely a show worth noting and a creator (Tom Wheeler) worth keeping an eye on.
The bottom line: A delightful gem that unfortunately gets outshone by its competition.