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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!
Last season, Lifetime ordered six drama pilots, of which three - "Army Wives," "State of Mind" and "Side Order of Life" - made it to series. This is a look back at the three pilots that were passed on.
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: THE VIRGIN OF AKRON, OHIO (Lifetime, 2007)
(written by Jordan Budde; directed by Randy Zisk; TRT: 46:42)
The network's description: No official description was released.
The plot in a nutshell: After being busted for drug possession, New York model Raleigh (Jill Latiano) has been sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service - the catch being she has to complete them under the supervision of her parents (lawyer Brian Kerwin and socialite Laurie Metcalf) back home in Akron, Ohio, the same place she's been trying to avoid since she left at 18. And so Raleigh begins her dreaded journey home, one which is cut short by a serious car accident in which her cab flips over. In the aftermath she manages to pull the driver (Alvin Sanders) out just as onlookers notice a bright light appearing above her as well as the image of the Virgin Mary in a nearby office window. Said cabbie goes on to make a miraculous recovery, causing the local paper to call her "The Virgin of Akron, Ohio." Before long dozens of Marianites turn up on her family's lawn, drawing attention neither Raleigh nor her family wants. From here we learn all about Raleigh's family dynamics, whether it be her mom's own not-so-secret drinking problem or her sister Juliet's (Chelah Horsdal) bitterness about being the one who stayed behind. Her only friends then are her well-adjusted teenage brother Kyle (Landon Liboiron) and her AA sponsor Vince (Matthew John Armstrong), an ex-cop who now works at a garden nursery. In any case, despite the family's best efforts, the Marianites won't let up, most notably Christina (Lorena York), a woman who was also involved in the accident. It seems her boss, whom she was with at the time (and as we'll eventually learn, was having an affair with her, not to mention has gotten her pregnant), has been in a coma since the accident and she's hoping Raleigh could heal him. Not surprisingly she objects at first but eventually comes around. But before she can lay her miraculous hands on the man, he twitches at her very presence, causing Raleigh to freak out and run off. A similar scenario plays out when a wheelchaired woman approaches Raleigh during her community service but this time Raleigh agrees to touch her legs... only nothing happens. Christina however refuses to give up on getting Raleigh's help, eventually convincing her to just pray for his recovery. And sure enough he wakes up... while miles away the wheelchaired woman stands up.
What works: Latiano gets the model part of her character down...
What doesn't: ...but most definitely lacks any edge to sell the addict part. Raleigh just never seems to come together as a character as she simply whines about how crappy it is being back home for 46 minutes. And nothing's more thrilling than watching an overly priviledged girl - her parents literally hand her every tool she needs to get her life together - complain ad nauseum. The show even tries to flip what she knows about her family - brother Kyle is actually more messed up than his facade lets on while mom Lydia it seems wasn't ignoring Raleigh while was growing up, Juliet just needed more help - and yet her reaction is more pouting and sulking. The same goes for her newfound abilities - the show doesn't offer up any practical reason why she shouldn't at the very least try them - other than to cause more whining. I guess at the end of the day, Raleigh's reaction to moving home (let alone perhaps having been blessed by Mary herself) seems to be equal to a spoiled girl being told she can't use the car to go to the mall or something.
The bottom line: Want to wager a guess?