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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh 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.]
AWESOMETOWN (BUSTED ABC PILOT)
(written by Adam Sztykiel; directed by Jesse Peretz; TRT: 22:37)
The network's description: "What do you do when you catch the only woman you ever loved cheating on you with another guy? You make tracks for Awesometown. Dusty is a 24-year old Seattle architect who learns the hard way that he married his junior high school sweetheart at least 10 years too soon. After getting an eyeful of his wife in the aforementioned compromising position, he does what any sane young dude would do - he files for divorce and moves in with his buddies. But everything has changed between the sexes, since Dusty walked down the aisle. There used to be dating "rules." Now, there are no rules. It's a free-for-all, like the Wild West... only sweatier, and more complicated, due to social media.
Luckily Dusty has some more experienced friends to help him dodge the dating landmines. There's Andrew, the people-pleaser and over-thinker who's in a long-distance relationship; Oliver, a self-confessed sex addict in training; and Sam, the hot, smart girl they'd all love to date. Awesometown is a raw, hilarious peek behind the curtains of what's really happening in 20-something relationships. Executive producers Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Made of Honor), Josh Bycel (Happy Endings, Scrubs) and Jon Fener (American Dad) take you on a wild ride through the contemporary dating scene in this edgy new ensemble comedy about modern relationships."
What did they leave out? The show was briefly known as "Dusty Goes to Awesometown" and before that, "The New Normal." Plus, Dusty isn't an architect, he's the IT guy for an architectural firm.
The plot in a nutshell: The last thing nebbish Dusty (Ben Rappaport) expected to see at a surprise birthday party for his wife Hannah (apologies as I didn't recognize the actress) was a man breaking in claiming to be answering her Craigslist ad for a role playing sex partner. (Or a second one either.) Thankfully he has his best friends/co-workers to fall back on: Andrew (Nick Kocher), who's so nice he pretends to be gay not to offend the advances of Ed (Brett Gelman), a fellow office mate; and guys' girl Sam (Amanda Crew) who's always dating the wrong guy for her, despite harboring a crush on Andrew. The former offers him a place to stay for the time being, much to the chagrin of his roommate/adoptive brother Oliver (James Earl), an amusingly uncensored first grade teacher ("I was one of them Blind Side kids. Andrew's family was my Sandra Bullock.").
Nursing their latest addition back to dating health however has its challenges, namely Dusty met Hannah in junior high and hasn't been on a date since (Dusty: "Do people still cruise the batting cages and stuff like that?" Andrew: "No, they do not because we're not in eighth grade anymore. People don't wear bathing suits as underwear or get rides from their sisters either.") Nevertheless the gang pushes Dusty out of the nest (Sam: "Pick a girl, we'll drug her and then we'll bring her back to the house.") where he quickly falls into the clutches of their "vaginamite" co-worker Alice (apologies as I also didn't recognize the actress), who's uncomfortably open about her sexuality: "Check it, I'm 21 so my hormones are going cray, cray. I sit on the dryer like three hours a day," she notes, adding a solid three seconds of dryer noises.
Even worse, Dusty falls for her ("This morning, waking up tied to Alice's bed posts with a child's mitten shoved in my mouth, I felt whole again.") prompting Andrew, Sam and Oliver to stage an intervention - or at least point out her obvious failings - efforts made all the more difficult by the return of Hannah. Oh, and Dennis Miller plays their boss who's annoyed with all of them in the way only Dennis Miller can be (Jimmy Neutron and the fat kid from PM Dawn being among his various references).
What works: I guess there could be some universe where this "peek behind the curtains of what's really happening in 20-something relationships" actually rings true but...
What doesn't: ...in our reality it comes across as a borderline nonsensical mess. First and foremost, none of these people behave like actual human beings. They're either glorified cartoon characters (Dusty the quintessential social pariah, Alice the over-the-top "SNL" skit); the Statler and Waldorf to said characters (Oliver on Dusty: "This guy is hopeless, he's like the Detroit of single men."; Sam to Andrew: "Your girlfriend lives 2,000 miles away. You've got to be practicing rubjitzu like nine times a day."); or played so hesitantly they don't register at all (Andrew and his "foibles" if you can call them that). They're just human Zeppelins that are launched into each other in the name of comedic destruction.
Not that it's completely humorless - Earl's Oliver has some solid bon mots (after Dusty indicates that Sandra Bullock is hot: "Solid insight by the guy with the braided belt."; reacting to Dusty moving in: "I'm not ready to have a baby with you, not while we're living in this school district.") - but it is all schadenfreude without any regret. It doesn't resonate that any of the above are actually friends beyond the fact the script says that they are, nor that we should care about what happens to them. I'm not asking for much, just some kind of inherent glimmer beyond its current radioed in TV tomfoolery. Coupled with its half-hearted attempts at plot - Dusty just randomly gets over his divorce; Andrew's dealings with Ed feel like that have zero stakes - and "Awesometown" just...
The bottom line: ...never gets it together.