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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 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. Keep in mind 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. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
100 QUESTIONS (NBC)
(Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c at midseason; TRT: 21:54)
The network's description: "Emmy winner James Burrows ("Will & Grace," "Friends") directs "100 Questions," a new comedy series written and executive-produced by Christopher Moynihan ("For Your Consideration") that provides hilarious answers to 100 questions about love. Charlotte Payne (Sophie Winkleman, "Peep Show") is looking for love and has rejected multiple marriage proposals -- but she has yet to meet Mr. Right. When she joins a popular online dating site, she gets a little help from her dating counselor Ravi (Amir Talai, "The Ex List") - who requires her to take a 100-question compatibility test. The questions aren't easy for Charlotte to answer, and each one requires her to recount a poignant and humorous time in her life with friends Leslie (Elizabeth Ho, "Women's Murder Club"), Jill (Joy Suprano, NBC's "Law & Order"), Mike (Christopher Moynihan "For Your Consideration") and Wayne (David Walton "Quarterlife"). The test becomes a journey of self-discovery for Charlotte who begins to realize what she truly wants in a relationship. Ron West ("Psych"), Kelly Kulchak ("Psych") and Michelle Nader ("King of Queens") join Moynihan as executive producers. The series is produced by Universal Media Studios and Tagline."
What did they leave out? Three of the six regulars - Elizabeth Ho, Joy Suprano and Amir Talai - have been let go and will be recast. Alex Hardcastle ("Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire") has also been tapped as the house director, taking over for James Burrows.
The plot in a nutshell: "Would you consider yourself an honest person?" Ravi (Amir Talai) of Soulmates Specialists, Inc. asks Charlotte Payne (Sophie Winkleman). It's the first of his company's 100-question, face-to-face survey designed to find her the perfect mate. "It's kind of complicated," she responds. And thus begins what we assume will be her weekly, episode-long answer. Said story involves her relationship with then boyfriend Rick (Travis Schuldt) who decides to propose to her at a Yankees game in front of her friends. She politely declines, causing him to break down in tears - an event which quickly becomes a YouTube sensation.
Her pals - trust fund layabout Wayne (David Walton), frustrated nice guy Mike (Christopher Moynihan, who doubles as the show's creator), jaded single Leslie (Elizabeth Ho) and serial dater Jill (Joy Suprano) - think she should have lied to spare his feelings at the time. Charlotte in turn makes it her mission to make Rick feel better, a decision which ultimately sees her - wait for it - lying. Intermixed amongst the "hijinks" then are Wayne and Mike's battle over who can come up with the best pick up line; Jill realizing she has no idea what the guy she picked up at the Yankees game looks like, as he was covered in body paint at the time; and Leslie radioing in that she and Charlotte work as wedding planners. They are adventures which Ravi ultimately bills as the greatest answer to the aforementioned question he's ever heard.
What works: In terms of a framework for your typical twenty-going-on-thirtysomething singles show, "100 Questions" isn't half bad as each installment is designed around a surprisingly unobtrusive theme. In terms of it actually being charming or funny...
What doesn't: ...that's an entirely different story. An eye-rolling mix of lead balloons jokes (Mary Poppins, scrotum cancer, "The Bucket List" and foam fingers to name a few), dating cliches (the rich, handsome guy can get away with saying things the not-as-handsome guy can't!) and awkward attempts at drama (the rich, handsome guy isn't as together as he puts on!), the series feels very much like something NBC used to sandwich between "Friends" and "Seinfeld." Everyone is dimensionless and easily pigeonholed in their respective stereotypes as we learn next to nothing about each of them except for their names and their capacity for sarcastic banter.
And while that's somewhat forgivable in the case of the supporting cast, the fact that we're given little to latch onto about the supposedly mythical creature that is Charlotte Payne definitely undercuts any desire to follow her romantic exploits. Nothing's worse than being told how great someone is - she's so lovable that she's been proposed to not one, not two, not three, but now four times! - and then have that person turn out to be about as vanilla as everyone else. The pilot even spends a few beats pondering this - what's so special about her that she's been proposed to four times? - and the fact the answer is simply, "because she's Charlotte Payne," inadvertently proves my point. At the end of the day,
I'd love to see a show like "How I Met Your Mother" get some solid company in the
twenty-going-on-thirtysomething dating sitcom genre...
The bottom line: ...unfortunately, that's not the case here.