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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: ATLANTA (CBS, 2007)
(written by Paul Reiser; directed by Harold Ramis; TRT: 21:54)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out: Be prepared to use the following phrase - "Whaaaaaaaaaaa???"
The plot in a nutshell: Jessica (Leslie Bibb) is your typical directionless yuppie - she's on yet another career (sales rep for a wine and beverage company), her boyfriend (Hayes MacArthur) is starting to choose Braves games over evenings with her and well, that's about all we learn about her. Eric (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) likewise is drifting along in a non-descript job amongst a sea of uninteresting women. Thankfully Scooter died, as it's his funeral that causes them to meet. There, despite lots of stumbling and awkwardness, they start to click and - during an impassioned speech by one of Scooter's friends (John Billingsley) about how life is too short - she gently rubs his hand, an event which Eric interprets as a sign from God they belong together. And so begins his Quixotic quest to earn her heart, or at least her phone number. There's Googling, calling in favors to college alumni, bitching to best friends (Dondre Whitfield in Eric's case, Christine Woods in Jessica's) and staring intently at pictures. Jessica is of course both horrified and intrigued by his pursuit. Not helping matters is their increasingly disastrous encounters, which include Eric's watch getting caught on her skirt (and accidentally tearing it off) and nearly being hit by a speeding Hummer. The latter event causes Jessica to muse that, "If this was a Sandra Bullock movie, we'd kiss right now." But they don't. She does however finally give up her phone number - and the good news is, it wasn't a fake one.
What works: If after reading the above you're saying to yourself, "Whaaaaaaaaaaa???"...
What doesn't: ...you're not alone. You know that scene in "Swingers" where Jon Favreau's character finally gets a girl's number and we watch him call her over and over to leave subsequently more and more embarrassing messages? This show is basically a longer version of that scene, minus the underlying sweetness, humor and goodwill built up by the scenes leading up to it. What really torpedoes it however is that Eric and Jessica literally have zero chemistry, which kind of undercuts the whole "I must have her"/"he's winning me over" dynamic. Even worse are the pilot's weird omissions, the foremost of which being the fact we're never told how Eric or Jessica know this Scooter person. The funeral might as well have been a coffee shop, it's literally that transparent. So yes, it's meet Jessica, meet Eric, they meet, he must have her, he sort of wins her over, the end.
The bottom line: The end indeed.