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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.]
OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS (BUSTED ABC PILOT)
(written by Hunter Covington; directed by Michael Fresco; TRT: 22:34)
The network's description: "Raising kids is like walking through a minefield of unexpected issues, but raising other people's kids is like walking through it blindfolded. One minute you're a chill single dude, and then - bang! - you've got a terrific girlfriend with two kids, a bizarre extended family, and an ex waiting to sabotage you at every turn. Adam (Jesse Bradford), unlike his perpetual child friend and business partner Magnus (Malcolm Barrett), has decided that it's time to settle down. He's met the girl of his dreams, Michelle (Bonnie Somerville), who's intelligent, beautiful, and funny - and has two children. She's also saddled with other family baggage: an eccentric mother (Judith Light), a long-time lover, and an ex-husband, Dave (Johnny Sneed), who's so much of a jerk that he seems about to go pro at it.
Adam is determined to make the situation work, but things never go exactly the way he plans. Adam and Michelle are clearly made for each other, but that doesn't mean her family is going to make it easy. Based on hot writer Hunter Covington's own misadventures as a stepdad, Other People's Kids dares to take on in-laws, exes, forced wasabi eating, and all the other unexpected hazards of modern family life. Stacy Traub (Notes from the Underbelly) and Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?) executive produce this genuine and genuinely funny multi-camera comedy."
What did they leave out? Rachael Harris turns up as Michelle's Rachael Harris-esque best friend Liz.
The plot in a nutshell: Adam (Jesse Bradford) always wanted to fall in love, get married, honeymoon in Tuscany and have kids. For better or worse then he's skipped a few steps in his relationship with Michelle (Bonnie Somerville), a divorced mother of two young kids: Emily (Claire Engler) and Bryce (Aaron & Griffin Kunitz). And so instead of going to beer pong tournaments or sleeping with girls who live paycheck to paycheck, he's now going to (and surprisingly enjoying) school plays, rodeo themed birthday parties and the butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum - much to the horror of his best friend/food truck partner Magnus (Malcolm Barrett, who quips, "You have the worst life out of anyone I know."). Overall things are going swimmingly, that is until Emily declares she doesn't want Adam to be part of their family.
Even worse, Michelle's jerk of an ex Dave (Johnny Sneed, who declares "I will find your flaw and I'm going to be there when I find it."), overbearing ex mother-in-law Laura (Judith Light) and her creepy lover Les (Tom Arnold) want to have all of them over for a big family dinner. It's enough to send any normal man fleeing for the hills but Adam presses on, hoping to bond with Emily over her love of hula hoops and power through the uncomfortableness that is her ex and his side of the family. Things of course get worse before they get better as Adam inadvertently gives Emily stitches and, in the ensuing scheme to make it up to her, she ultimately decides - wait for it - she's in love with him and wants to marry him. Not surprisingly, the resulting awkwardness makes Michelle think Adam is going to dump her, when it's her daughter he's trying to let down easy.
What works: Believe it or not the whole I've-mistakenly-made-your-very-young-daughter-fall-in-love-with-me plot is...
What doesn't: ...just as weird as it sounds. Just as disturbing however is the show's smorgasbord of lowest common denominator jokes: the cold open revolves around Bryce's frequent habit of taking standing poops in public; Judith Light's Laura spends an entire scene using a Shake Weight for no apparent reason; and Emily plants boogers in Adam's water to punish him. Not helping matters is that Adam and Michelle's relationship is completely radioed in. He frequently professes his feelings about Michelle to Magnus but yet we barely see it play out on screen. Rooting for a guy isn't easy when you don't really get to see what he's fighting for.
Further complicating matters is the show's tendency to pivot at random - in addition to the aforementioned about face by Emily, Adam inadvertently exposes Michelle's lie to get them out of Laura's dinner party (he was too busy playing video games to hear her plan, because, you know, that's what a guy who you've repeatedly established as completely devoted to making things work with Michelle would do); while Liz decides to parachute in that she used to date Magnus, yell that she was the one who ended it, storm off and promptly disappear for the rest of the pilot. Like I said, it's all just...
The bottom line: ...very weird.