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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: TWO FAMILIES (FOX, 2007)
(written by Barbara Wallace & Thomas R. Wolfe; directed by Michael Engler; TRT: 21:45)
The network's description: "Imagine you get a call from the hospital, informing you that your father has had an accident. You rush to the emergency room, you wait, you worry. Turns out he's fine, thank goodness. But as he's wheeled out, another family rushes up to him, calling him "Pop" and "Dad," and you realize "Oh my God, my father is one of those creepy guys with two secret families. My dad's a bigamist!" DAVID CAMPBELL SR. (Beau Bridges, "Stargate SG-1," "Into the West," "The Fabulous Baker Boys"), a widower (twice over), is the father of two motley crews of adult siblings. His offspring in Appleton, Wisconsin, are type A real estate agent JUDITH (Geneva Carr, "Law & Order"); her younger sister SUSAN (Samantha Bee, "The Daily Show"), a bitter divorcee whose first husband turned out to be gay; and Susan's twin brother DAVID 1 (Carlos Jacott, "She Spies," "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"), who's a college professor and bike enthusiast. Sixty miles away in (less desirable) Rhinelander, there are three more Campbell offspring: antisocial animal lover IRENE (Lucy Punch, "The Class," "Stingray"), who dotes on the neediest, but not necessarily most deserving, creatures; DAVID 2 (Sean O'Bryan, "The Princess Diaries," "Six Feet Under"), athletic and spiritual; and youngest brother GREG (Christopher Denham, "Headspace"), a comic book aficionado who's known as "the Anemic Baby" because of his many phantom ailments. For years, the Appleton Campbells knew nothing about David Sr.'s family in Rhinelander. And the Campbells in Rhinelander knew nothing about the Appleton clan. Now that they all know, no one is happy about it except David Sr., who feels that a huge weight has been lifted. Make that two huge weights he no longer has to keep his big secret, and he no longer has to cover two mortgages. But how is he going to bring everyone together? Dysfunctional family dynamics just got more dysfunctional. This is a show about getting to know your family all of them in a whole new context. From 20th Century Fox Television and HBO Independent Productions, TWO FAMILIES was written by Barbara Wallace and Tom Wolfe ("Welcome to New York")."
What did they leave out: That just about covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: The last person David Campbell (Carlos Jacott) expected to meet while rushing to the hospital to see his father, David Sr. (Beau Bridges), was David Campbell (Sean O'Bryan). You see, David Sr. has had two families for the past 40 years, a fact he was hoping wouldn't get found out until after he died. (He never told their mothers either, who have since passed on.) And despite his best efforts, both clans have emerged decidedly different. The Appleton Campbells - college professor/cycling enthusiast David 1 (Jacott), older sister/realtor Judith (Geneva Carr) and younger sister/bitter divorcee Susan (Samantha Bee) - got the more upscale meal ticket while the Rhinelander Campbells - cokehead-turned-born again David 2 (O'Bryan), oddball animal advocate Irene (Lucy Punch) and the overly sheltered Greg (Christopher Denham) - were stuck with the leftovers. It's a fact neither Campbell clan is thrilled about, especially after learning that David Sr. has gone broke trying to raise both families. Judith and her husband (Ted McGinley) then devise a plan to sell the Rhinelander Campbells' house, only to have it backfire when David Sr. invites them to all live in the Appleton Campbells' home. Nevertheless the ice between both camps begins the thaw, from David 2 deciding to go by Dave to everyone coming together after David Sr. has another health crisis.
What works: It's not that "Two Families" is necessarily a bad show or a boring one, it just ends up being ...
What doesn't: ...rather forgettable. Every character is given some kind of shtick - David 1 likes wimpy sports, Irene nurses disgusting animals back to health, Susan swears at inopportune moments, Greg just kind of goes with the flow, David 2 is overly proud of his newfound faith, and Judith is, um, a real estate agent - that never quite pop, leaving the impression the show itself doesn't have a lot of legs. That's not to say it's without its amusing moments - such as David Sr. attending AA because there's no support group for guys with secret wives or Susan learning their dog from childhood "ran away" to the Rhinelander Campbells or how each of David Sr.'s wedding photos are exactly the same - it's just the majority of it leaves you with a "shrug" feeling. In the end I wouldn't be surprised if there was an actual show in here...
The bottom line: ...but for right now there's not a lot that screams there is.