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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! 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.]
I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (FOX)
(written by Ellen Kreamer & Sherry Bilsing-Graham; directed by Andy Ackerman; TRT: 23:14)
The network's description: "I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (working title) is a new multi-camera comedy about two best friends who are single moms struggling to raise their difficult and over-privileged teenage daughters. ANNIE (Emmy Award winner Jaime Pressly, "My Name Is Earl") and NIKKI (Tony Award winner Katie Finneran, "Wonderfalls") are former high school outcasts whose pasts inform their current parenting styles. Annie, who was raised in an ultra-strict, uber-religious household where she had little-to-no freedom, pretty much allows her daughter, SOPHIE (Kristi Lauren, "You"), to do whatever she wants. Nikki, once an unpopular, overweight social pariah, has reinvented herself as a pretty Southern belle whose top priority is providing her daughter, MACKENZIE (Aisha Dee, "Dead Gorgeous"), with the childhood she never had. Sophie and Mackenzie are also best friends, which leads to a lot of co-parenting for Annie and Nikki. They have given the girls everything they asked for and everything they never had: clothes, money and self-esteem. The unintended consequence is they have created two mean girls just like the ones who tortured them years ago. Sophie finds her mother embarrassing and mocks her at every opportunity, but she secretly needs her mom and knows that her behavior is not always appropriate.
Mackenzie, on the other hand, is the more manipulative of the daughters - she knows how to work her mother's insecurities to her benefit. Annie's ex-husband, MATT (Eric Sheffer Stevens, "As The World Turns"), wants to be a good parent, but is too clueless to know what that even means. That leaves his brother, JACK (Kevin Rahm, "Desperate Housewives," "Judging Amy"), an attractive, high-powered attorney, to serve as more of a father figure for Sophie. Jack's meddling would annoy Annie more if she didn't have such a crush on him. GARY (Chad Coleman, "The Wire"), Nikki's ex, also tries to help raise his challenging daughter, but the couple's complicated relationship often makes his involvement more difficult. As their daughters begin to experience their first high school dances and other life-changing teen events, Annie and Nikki are often reminded of their own tortured adolescent years. But when Sophie and Mackenzie's mean-girl antics cross the line, the moms quickly realize that they must, for the first time, dole out some real punishment and fix what is broken. They have no idea how to do that, but they do know one thing: They can't do it without each other."
What did they leave out? That about covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: Best friends Annie (Jaime Pressly) and Nikki (Katie Finneran) weren't the most popular girls in high school. "Kentucky Fried Nikki" as she was called tipped the scales at 300 pounds and was battling a case of alopecia while Annie's religious parents were overly strict and dressed her like a character from "Little House on the Prairie." Not surprisingly, when they had teenage daughters of their own they gave them everything they ever wanted in the hopes of giving them the kind of childhood they never had.
Unfortunately, they may have created monsters as a result: Sophie (Kristi Lauren) and Mackenzie (Aisha Dee) dress like call girls, roll their eyes at their parents' very presence and torture the less fortunate kids. In other words, the exact kind of mean girls that tormented them as teenagers. But after learning from the school's principal Ms. Diego (Rosa Blasi, herself a former mean girl) that they locked a handicapped kid in the bathroom, Annie and Nikki decide enough is enough and ground them from going to their first dance. This of course goes as well as can be expected as the girls alternate between the silent treatment and fits of screaming, enough to send Annie to the bottle and Nikki to the pie counter.
Not helping matters is that the girls' fathers are either clueless - Annie's ex Matt (a funny Eric Sheffer Stevens; "How can I be a bad parent? I'm never even here.") is perennially on the road with his band - or try to buy their daughter's love - Nikki's husband Gary (Chad Coleman; "You think I enjoy hanging out with old white men all day? They call me Tiger.") is a successful golf pro. Ultimately while trying to follow through with their tough love, Annie and Nikki learn their mean girl daughters may not be so mean after all... or not.
What works: It's a harmless enough half-hour as Pressly and Finneran alternate between recounting the horrors of their childhood and the horrors being thrust upon them by their kids - the former being responsible for the latter. They just want the best for the kids and have inadvertently gone too far, thanks to a lifetime of saying yes to everything. It's not rolling in the aisles funny but there are a few laughs...
What doesn't: ...for what feels like a somewhat one-joke premise. Nearly every quip is a variation on the seemingly mythical terrors of their youth (Annie's parents made her picket "Dirty Dancing!" Nikki had to go to her first dance in her dad's chicken truck!) or how exasperated their daughters' current behavior makes them. Obviously every show needs its hook but 23 minutes in it already feels very old hat. (Even its sole deviation - Matt's lawyer brother Jack (Kevin Rahm) is presented as a potential love interest for Annie - feels stale right out of the gate.) At the end of the day if watching a grown woman eat a pie without utensils because her daughter is so mean strikes you as hilarity, you'll be right at home here. If not...
The bottom line: ...you'll want to look elsewhere.