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So you've seen all of the new shows this fall - but what about the ones that didn't make the cut? For the next 30 days we're going to take a "first look" at a collection of 30 pilots that didn't land on the 2009-10 season schedule. Are there any gems that got passed over or are they all deservedly locked in the networks' vaults? Stay tuned.
THE BODY POLITIC (The CW)
(written by Jason Rothenberg & Bill Robinson; directed by Scott Winant; TRT: 29:35)
What is it? A drama about twentysomething Congressional staffers in Washington, D.C.
Who was behind it?: Jason Rothenberg and Bill Robinson ("Pasadena") penned the hour off a story they co-wrote with Peter Horton. Scott Winant ("Californication") directed the project, which was filmed as a pilot presentation. In other words, only select scenes from the pilot script were actually filmed. For instance, Brian Austin Green's character - Presidential adviser Lucky Evans - is mentioned but doesn't actually appear on screen.
The plot in a nutshell: "Change: it's all anybody talks about these days," says Frankie Foster ("Friday Night Lights's" Minka Kelly) in the opening voiceover. For her, it's leaving behind her life as a bartender in Michigan for a shot at becoming a staffer in Washington, D.C. You see, she's going to follow in the footsteps of her recently deceased mother, who was an aide to the now Senator Robert Webster (R, "The West Wing's" Tim Matheson) before she got pregnant with Frankie and quit the political game to raise her family. And sure enough, Frankie improbably lands an internship in Webster's office - working for Jim Spurlock ("Burn Notice's" Ben Shenkman), his Chief of Staff - thanks to her quick thinking and a few tips from admiring cub reporter Charlie Morris ("Moonlight's" Jason Dohring).
She'll have to hit the ground running however as is it turns out that Webster is the President's newest choice for Attorney General. Said development is the result of his previous choice - Senator Jack Sandoval (D, Anthony Addabbo) - passing away from heart complications with the rumor mill saying it was during sex with his legislative director Jessica Sharp ("Life's" Gabrielle Union). The complications however don't end there - Charlie wants to use Frankie as his source for the news about Webster's nomination. And if that wasn't enough, Jessica just so happens to live in the same building as Charlie, one which also conveniently has an apartment open for Frankie. And (are you exhausted yet?) Frankie also happens to be the only person to have spotted Jessica getting into a limo with Sandoval just before he died. But - as they the kids say - wait, there's more: the other members of the building are drawn into this web as well.
Trust fund baby Ruby ("Reaper's" Jenny Wade) works for/is in love with nice guy Senator Mullin (D, "Eli Stone's" Matt Letscher), who is being pressured by the White House to approve Webster's nomination. War hero Ben Morales ("Six Degrees's" Jay Hernandez) conversely works for Senator Buckley (D, Lisa Darr), who's livid over being passed over for the AG spot to a Republican. She in turn is threatening to kill Mullin's foreclosure freeze bill if he follows through. All of the above however takes a backseat to the real issue: Ben and Charlie both falling head over heels for Frankie despite her assurances she has a boyfriend back home. For Frankie though it's a question of how to handle the real reason she's in DC - to get to know her real father... wait for it... Senator Webster. At the end of the day though, like in most TV shows/films, it's nothing that dancing around in the rain with your new neighbors to Carolina Liar's "Show Me What I'm Looking For" can't cure.
What works: The cast is about as likeable as you could ask for - Kelly, Dohring and company all bring a nice charm to the proceedings that helps gloss over some of the show's shaggier parts. I was particularly impressed by Shenkman, Letscher and Darr, all of whom pop despite only having one scene each ("She devoted her life to him," Buckley explains to Jessica about Sandoval's wife. "She gave him three beautiful kids - perhaps you know them? You look about their age... women like you are the reason there's a glass ceiling for women like me.") And for the most part, "Body" does a nice job of straddling the fence between political shenanigans and personal foibles to keep it from being too soapy or too serious. More importantly there's also a vague sense of authenticity to the proceedings (unlike say "See Kate Run" and "House Rules," which we'll get to later this month), which likewise elevates the show beyond the navel gazing hour it could have easily become.
What doesn't: On the flip side, "Body" unfortunately falls into the "just so happens" trap (see "State of Romance"), in this case by making Frankie essentially Forrest Gump her way through the hottest political issue of the moment. Frankie's "Grey's Anatomy"-esque narration likewise underlines the obvious way too much while the reveal that Webster is really her father is too easy to see coming (if you didn't know from the previously announced summaries already). And as is often the case with presentations, some peripheral characters get the short of the end of the stick: as previously mentioned, Brian Austin Green's character doesn't even appear in the pilot while another resident of the apartment complex (Brandon Scott's Miles) essentially just waves hello to the camera. Overall, there's definitely a sense there's a show in here somewhere...
The bottom line: ...one that might have been fun if it made the cut.