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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) 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 the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
IT TAKES A VILLAGE (ABC)
(written by Casey Johnson & David Windsor; directed by Michael Fresco; TRT: 21:55)
The network's description: "Karen and Howard are just like any other couple lovingly raising their teenage son except they happen to live across the street from each other; Karen is remarried and Howard is gay. It Takes a Village is the comedy that proves that unconditional love can come in unconventional packages. Howard and Karen are devoted parents who raised their precocious, 15-year old son George in a protective bubble. That bubble burst big time, however, the day Karen and Howard got divorced and Howard came out of the closet. Now Karen and Howard live right across the street from each other; Karen is remarried to Carl, and everything's friendly. Right up until Howard invites his boyfriend Scott to move in.
Suddenly, George has four parents keeping an eye on him at all times and they're always in each other's business. That's kind of okay, though. When you're a teenage boy, having your parents divorce and your dad announce that he's gay, kind of stinks. But having four great, loving parents always looking out for you? That's pretty cool. In this single-camera comedy, up-and-coming writers Casey Johnson and David Windsor explore the intricate, sometimes delicate, and always-complicated dynamics of divorced family life."
What did they leave out? That really just about covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: Karen (Leah Remini) and Howard (Christopher Sieber) had the perfect marriage... until their divorce 16 years later. You see they had one small problem: it turns out Howard is gay. Now newly remarried to the Chicago Bears-obsessed plumber Carl (James Patrick Stuart, complete with dog named Dick Butkus), Karen has managed to rebuild her friendship with Howard, so much so that he even bought the house across the street from her. The reason: their son George (Zach Mills) is smack dab in the middle of his awkward teen years and needs all the guidance he can get. Unfortunately that guidance comes in the form of the same uncool, please-get-away-from-me package everyone's parents deliver it.
Fortunately there's one person who's willing to tell George the cold hard truth when it comes to growing up, Howard's boyfriend Scott (Cheyenne Jackson), whom Howard's just invited to move in. Said advice comes into play when the most popular girl in school, Alyssa (Haley King), asks George if she can come over and study, a move which Karen, Howard and George's best friend Chris (Gabriel Morales) immediately interpret as George's first date ("You're totally going to pork her," Chris declares). Scott conversely knows what's really going on: she, like all pretty girls who invite themselves over to geeky boys' houses in high school, is simply using him to copy his homework. Karen of course interprets Scott's guidance as a power play to take over the parenting reigns and resumes stealing things she lost in the divorce. Ultimately cooler heads prevail (it turns out George actually likes hearing the truth) and a ceasefire is declared between his newly extended family.
What works: Stuart's deadpan, cluelessly-hetero, happily hen-pecked Carl ("What's a chimichanga? Isn't that a type of dog?" or "Chicken with mole sauce? That sounds disgusting.") is fun and Mills's nebbish George has his moments ("Apparently [Scott says when I'm 17] I'm going to get more tail than Sinatra, whoever that is.") but...
What doesn't: ...they don't quite distract you from what's ultimately a flat, boilerplate show. Every cliched, stilted joke about being gay, divorced or being the byproduct of parents who are both are in full force here: Gay guys like "Dreamgirls" and don't think "Moulin Rouge" was over the top! (And wait for it... don't know anything about sports!) It turns out straight guys actually like boobs! And geeky teens make awkward jokes about prime numbers in front of pretty girls! Throw in some needless narration (Remini's Karen states the obvious in voiceover at the top and end of the show) and an annoyingly chirpy theme under each scene and that's more or less it. At the end of the day while seeing Remini return to the small screen would be nice - and finding solid showcases for folks like Stuart and Jackson even better - this one...
The bottom line: ...is best left on the shelf.