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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.]
HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE) (ABC)
(written by Claudia Lonow; directed by Julie Anne Robinson; TRT: 23:11)
The network's description: "Polly (Sarah Chalke) is a single mom who's been divorced for almost a year. The transition wasn't easy for her, especially in this economy. So, like a lot of young people living in this new reality, she and her daughter, Natalie (Rachel Eggleston), have moved back home with her eccentric parents, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins) and Max (Brad Garrett). But Polly and her parents look at life through two different lenses. Polly's too uptight. Her parents are too laid back. Polly's conservative when it comes to dating (no action, whatsoever), while her parents are still sexually adventurous.
They think Polly turned out okay, so what's the big deal? Well, they say it takes a village to raise a child... and in Polly's case, this village is on fire. But with help from her best friend Gregg (Orlando Jones), her lovable yet irresponsible ex-husband Julian (Jon Dore) and her cool and fun assistant Jenn (Rebecca Delgado Smith) Polly takes her first steps toward getting a life, starting with a social one."
What did they leave out? Is this a record for the longest title for a TV series?
The plot in a nutshell: It's been a year since Polly (Sarah Chalke) returned to her parents' nest, her six-year-old daughter Natalie (Rachel Eggleston) in tow. "I'm not a failure, I'm trendy," she notes in the opening narration. You see, her now ex Julian (Jon Dore) has a not exactly successful panache for gambling ("housing markets, cockroach races, sunsets, who's going to die next"), creating an unstable home. Polly's oversexed parents - uncensored mom Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins) and longtime stepfather/nightclub owner Max (Brad Garrett) - however are proving to be only a marginal upgrade. Always drinking and out partying, Elaine and Max are absentee parents at best, psychologically scarring at worst. Said facets make leaving Natalie alone with them a challenge. Coupled with Julian finding increasingly more ridiculousness reasons to come around the house, Polly hasn't been able to get on with her life, let alone find a new mate.
Polly nevertheless decides that's all finally going to change, agreeing to go out on a date with Luke (Rick Federman) - a friend of her boss at boutique grocery Pantry Pete's, Gregg (Orlando Jones in an unfortunately thankless role) - and entrusting Elaine and Max to step up and actually babysit Natalie. (Elaine, after seeing Natalie's medication: "Oh now these don't look like any fun at all." Max: "Well that one does, it's blue.") Things of course go as badly as expected as Polly spends her date constantly looking at her phone while Elaine and Max inadvertently traumatize Natalie while trying to help her overcome her fear of dogs. And when Julian arrives to help, it only manages to get worse. Ultimately, despite said foibles, Polly comes to realize that Elaine, Max and even Julian mean well, and just might be there in the way she's always hoped they would.
What works: It's more or less exactly the show you think it's going to be - Chalke's Polly is a neurotic mess (Polly: "Why does he get to be irresponsible? I am the screwed up one right?"
Elaine: "In this house, you are."), Perkins's Elaine overshares whenever possible ("I slept with every guy in my improv class before I found Max, e-v-e-r-y guy.") and Garrett's Max is a giant bull in a china shop (Elaine, to Natalie: "She just doesn't want you to worry about getting a new dad." Max: "Elaine, why don't you just tell her there's no Santa." Natalie: "There's no Santa!" Max: "We are blowing this."). And to its credit, there are some amusing moments, whether it's Max always being annoyed with Julian still hanging around ("Why doesn't he just sleep with one of her friends and invest in a tequila business like a normal person.") or Gregg's bemusement over Polly's foibles ("My mom stopped having sex when I was in high school, like you're supposed to."). It's just...
What doesn't: ...the show never quite makes the leap to something great. After five minutes you can see most of the jokes coming, from Max's perpetual fatuousness (Max: "What are we idiots? We have your cell number." Polly: "Of course." Max, after a beat: "Give it to me."); to Elaine's exhaustive list of sexual conquests (Elaine, to Polly: "You're still the best thing I ever did, and I once had sex with a Chicago Bull. Not going to tell you which one... because I don't remember, but it was a good one."); to the endless callbacks to Max having only one testicle (Max, to Julian: "Do you have any idea how lucky you are to have two perfectly working balls? Don't squander them.").
The same goes for the prerequisite closing needle drop of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" (you know, because she's coming home!). Throw in some needless frills from director Julie Anne Robinson (brace yourself, arrows point to things Polly is talking about in the narration!) and, well, like I said, it's not smoothing sailing out of the gate. That being said, the presence of Chalke, Perkins and Garrett, an impressive comedy lineup to say the least, inspires a lot of faith...
The bottom line: ...so here's hoping it gets better.