September 14, 2013

TV: Trophy Wife (Tue 9:30, ABC)

Premieres on Sep 24; pilot currently available at Hulu.

Let the fall festival o'reviews begin!

A year ago, Kate (Malin Akerman) was a single girl who loved to party. But then she fell into the lap (literally) of Pete (Bradley Whitford), and now she's married and part of Pete's extended family. There's ex-wife #1, Diane (Marcia Gay Harden), a hyper-competent surgeon with whom Pete has 15-year-old twins, and ex-wife #2, Jackie (Michaela Watkins), a slightly ditzy New Ager with whom Pete has an adopted 7-year-old son from China. Marriage and stepmotherhood are a big change for Kate, who's trying to learn overnight all of the things that take parents years to master.

The cast here is very strong. Akerman's been on the verge of stardom for a few years now, and this could be the show that finally gets her there. She's good at physical comedy (there's some effective drunk shtick in the pilot), and has an easy, comfortable relationship with Whitford. Harden's doing a nice comic spin on her usual ball-buster roles, and I already sense that the writers are going to be careful not to make her just an overbearing ogre, but to give her some softer edges as well. Watkins' character is the least well developed and the most cliched in the pilot, but it's hard for a comedy pilot to round out all of its characters too much while establishing the premise.

The kids, for instance, are pretty standard issue sitcom kids at this point. Warren (Ryan Lee, who looks more like a goofy teenager than most TV kids, which is refreshing) has a massive crush on his sister's best friend; Hilary (Bailee Madison) is the rebel who's bored by Kate's attempts to connect; Bert (Albert Tsai) isn't asked to do much more than be adorably precocious, but he does that well, and is less cloying than one fears from such a character.

Scheduling seems a bit odd to me. ABC's burying the show on a night with an entirely new lineup, and it airs opposite NCIS: Los Angeles, The Voice, Supernatural, and The Mindy Project. It's a show that would have been a very good fit, I think, with Modern Family on Wednesday night; if Super Fun Night bombs quickly, as the early buzz suggests it may, I wouldn't be surprised to see Trophy Wife moved there.

Promising pilot, and certainly one I'll keep watching for a few weeks to see what develops.

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