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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: JUDY'S GOT A GUN (ABC)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: "After a five-year hiatus, Judy returns to work as cop. She's both eager and nervous. Judy also is a single mother. How does that change her as a police officer? In the line of fire, which part will react first: mommy or cop? Welcome to Judy Lemen's suburban universe. Beneath the facade of planned communities and retail villages, San Carlos, CA is rife with store robberies, homemade porn, beauty salon shootouts, and a prostitution ring run out of the Cinnabon. Judy's not trying to save the world; she just wants to make a better life for herself and her seven-year-old daughter. She hopes to make detective in six months and maybe meet a nice guy along the way. Though her life has changed since Judy a street cop, her instincts are as sharp as ever she can still tackle fleeing suspects and drop perpetrators at 50 yards. But the real tough part is getting her fellow officers to stop thinking of her as just a mother and also see her as a good detective. The creators of "In Justice" and the executive producer of "Life As We Know It" combine "Weeds" and "Close to Home" for a police procedural with heart and humor. Starring Louise Lombard ("CSI") as a woman with the two toughest jobs in the world, crime-fighting... and motherhood."
What did they leave out: By far the most surprising of the busted pilots, in a good way.
The plot in a nutshell: Ray Stevens's whimsical "Everything Is Beautiful" provides the backdrop to our introduction to the suburban community of La Tierra, California. Here, between its facade of manicured lawns and immaculate living rooms, we catch glimpses of everything from a husband and wife viewing online porn, to a mother putting down her baby to smoke meth, to our hero - the recently divorced, newly reinstated detective Judy Lemen (Louise Lombard) - retrieving her gun from the kitchen cabinet. "You want to know the secret about suburban crime," her new captain (Colm Feore) notes. "People don't need the money so crime gets weird." And so after a seven-year leave of absence to raise her precocious daughter (Bailee Madison), Judy is thrust into the mostly offbeat world of suburban crime - where guys dressed in sandwich costumes get arrested for indecent exposure and overzealous husbands pull guns out at hair salons when their wives dye jobs go awry. Acting as her tour guide then is her no-nonsense training officer Pamela Coates (Michael Michele), a formerly obese soldier who lost the weight in Iraq and bought herself breast implants as a reward. Through them we learn the stories of the various people flashed in the teaser and the crimes they've committed or have been committed against them. Also along for the ride are Gavin Lynch (Johnny Messner), a recent transfer from Baltimore with anger issues; his partner Brad Wilkes ("30 Rock's" Keith Powell, basically reprising his role here); beat cop Maya Spektor (Margo Harshman) and her germaphobic partner Patrick (Steve Sandvoss); Isaac Prentice (Matt Lanter), a charming undercover cop at the local high school; and Richard Palm (Marc Blucas), a local dad who, along with Gavin, vies for Judy's affections. The bulk of the show then is spent on two cases - Judy and Pamela look into the discovery of a woman's toe in a dumpster and Maya and Patrick try to figure out why a bunch of teens broke into a deacon's house to shoot porn. Both of their paths take widely unexpected routes as the captain's promise of "weird" turns out to be the understatement of the year. When all is said and done however Judy, dubbed the "mommy cop" by her peers, and her gun get the job done.
What works: By far and away not the show I was expecting, "Judy" has to rank as the most pleasant surprise I've come across thus far. Unexpectedly fun and breezy, "Judy" is the first show in some time that I genuinely had no idea what would happen next. Offbeat but not too weird, sharp but not too in on the joke, outlandish but surprisingly grounded and goofy without losing its charm, the show takes its "Close to Home"-done-as-a-comedy concept and simply runs with it. Whether it be pornographers that turn out to be straight-laced stay-at-home-parents or a toe that turns out to belong to a mom with a meth habit that's being squeezed by the neighborhood rent-a-cop, there isn't a twist this show doesn't take to keep the momentum going. Sure it's still very much your parents' procedural, but thankfully co-creators Michelle King and Robert King have packaged it in a way that makes the ride the focus rather than the blueprints for it, if that makes any sense. Leading the charge then are Lombard, who somehow sells the idea that a standoff with an armed gunman can be solved by giving his wife the number for her colorist, and Michele, who literally takes one (in the breast implant no less) for the team. The real standouts however are Harshman and Sandvoss as their constant one-up-manship (she mocks the fact he believes evil is actually a contagious germ, he holds over her the fact she was offered a modeling job by the aforementioned pornographers because of her underage looks) provides many of the pilot's highlights. All in all, a real gem has been locked in the vault here.
What doesn't: Maybe it's the Stockholm syndrome from watching too many bad pilots setting in, but I couldn't find anything to complain about.
The bottom line: As mentioned previously, a real gem is being locked in the vault here.