Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.
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.]
OPEN BOOKS (CBS)
(written by Gail Lerner; directed by James Burrows; TRT: 20:27)
The network's description: No official description has been released...
What did they leave out? ...so everything.
The plot in a nutshell: As a book editor June (Laura Benanti) often finds her time monopolized by her authors' neuroses. Case in point: Kyle (Jim Rash) likes to call her at odd hours and share every detail from his increasingly disturbing dreams. Not helping matters is her best friend Lydia (Aisha Tyler) and her mom Roz (Patti LuPone) have their own foibles she's frequently drawn into, something her assistant Caitlyn (Kether Donohue) is more than happy to point out. Whether it's trading outfits with actress Lydia for her latest audition (for "CSI" no less, enjoy the meta-ness!) or hearing about Roz's romantic struggles, June rarely gets a moment to herself. Thankfully her kind-hearted fiance Mark (Kevin Rahm) is there to help her decompress and give her something that resembles a normal life.
That facet however is threatened by the return of Dylan Fargo (Scott Foley), a Sebastian Junger-esque author with whom she once had a hot one-night stand with years ago. You see,
much like her mother, June finds herself wrestling with the concept of comfort versus passion when it comes to relationships. Mark is nice and stable, always there after a hard day at work. Dylan conversely is unpredictable - he disappeared for two years after they slept together - and an unabashed womanizer - Dylan: "I'm a different person now, I've traveled the world, I've searched my soul, I've had meaningful relationships." June: "Oh, so you've had some two-night stands?" Dylan: "The second night is not easy, where's the mystery?" - but wants to tear her clothes off at a moment's notice.
He arrives carrying what could be his next bestseller and needs her to edit the massive manuscript. "Well if you don't call him, give me his number," Roz notes after hearing the news. "That man is not hard to look at." Like June, Roz's current squeeze Bert (Michael McKean) fits into the Mark mold. She says she had the nice and stable guy in June's father and now wants something more fiery. And so June finds herself once again working with Dylan - something she conveniently forgets to tell Mark - where her notes about his book seem to manifest the issues she has with him as a prospective suitor. Ultimately she decides passion over stability but not before learning Dylan's went and slept with Lydia. And thus, her passion versus stability war continues.
What works: It's more "isn't that cute" than actually funny as June's foibles aren't exactly filled with laughs. "She's a good friend," June says about Lydia. "Well, she played one once on a soap."; Caitlyn: "The Topless Chef called, she says she loves the flowers, she's healing nicely and she'll be back on her book tour in a week." June: "I told her it was a bad idea but she wanted to do a book on a hundred things to do with a deep fryer." That's basically the kind of low-key, relatively limp humor the show is going for. And to its credit Benanti has her charms as the lead, but there's...
What doesn't: ...just really not much spark to her situation. Oh the horrors of having a great guy! How does she sleep at night? My mocking aside, the show quickly deposits itself in the pro-Dylan camp and never really gives much of a Mark counterargument once Dylan is introduced. In other words there really isn't much of a debate - Dylan has her at hello and when it doesn't work out, Mark is left holding the bag (hell, he doesn't even appear in the second half of the pilot). All of this is of course fine in and of itself however the show rests its laurels on the central passion versus stability debate. Why have a debate then when the conclusion is so obvious in this case?
It's a development that ultimately makes June look unflattering as she selfishly covers for her actions and isn't apologetic in the least. Even after Roz gives her a final pep talk - "Passion is for the fringes of your life, when you're young and stupid and when you're old and free. In the middle you've got to be practical and go with someone who will stick around and love you. Now's the time for a Mark." - June winds up just moping around that she's still confused (an odd way to close the show to say the least). At the end of the day I'm all for a relationship comedy tackling the aforementioned issues...
The bottom line: ...it would just be nice if it showed you the debate rather than just told you one was going on.