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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
(Fridays at 10:00/9:00c this fall)
The network's description: "Come inside the world of the doctors of the Family Options Fertility Clinic in this ensemble drama, where one of the most complicated questions is to conceive -- or not to conceive. Assuredly, theirs is a noble quest as they help desperate couples give birth; however, clinic co-founders Dr. Malcolm Bower (Jonathan Cake, "Fallen") and Rachael Lew (Ming-Na, NBC's Emmy-winning "ER") and their staff, including psychologist Lydia Crawford (guest-starring Alfre Woodard, "Beauty Shop"), Nurse Patrice (Joelle Carter, "American Pie 2"), office manager Marrissa (Mary Catherine Garrison, "How to Deal") and attorney Scott (David Norona, "Mr. Sterling") are not above their own occasional adventures involving sex, deception and secrets. As viewers navigate through the ultrasound and super-egos, the missing frozen embryos and impending malpractice suits, it's positively clear that life inside this clinic is anything but sterile."
What did they leave out: Let's not skirt the issue here: "Inconceivable" is just as bad as you think it's going to be. But if you must watch, be sure to stay for its final moments which feature the most disturbing ending to a pilot in recent memory (no, I'm not kidding).
The plot in a nutshell: Brash Dr. Malcolm Bower (Jonathan Cake) and mousy lawyer Rachael Lew (Ming-Na) are partners in the Family Options Fertility Clinic, a company which devotes itself to helping couples conceive children. It's here where we track a handful of storylines about said endeavors: there's a pastor who's having trouble getting his wife pregnant but is uncomfortable with invitro; a military widow who's not sure about using his dead wife's eggs to conceive; and a couple who's threatening to sue the clinic after their surrogate gives birth to the wrong child. And if that wasn't enough, there's a handful of personal developments: Rachael struggles with her son's questions about her birth father, Malcolm is having an affair with one of his co-workers, and Scott's (David Norona) partner is stalking their surrogate (the always amusing Amanda Foreman) to make sure she's sticking to his strict requirements.
What works: For what it's worth, the show's half-dozen plus storylines (some of which overlap) are all juggled without becoming confusing. And even though it's a rather hokey premise, you've got to give the producers credit for coming up with something unique in today's TV landscape. I know, I'm reaching here.
What doesn't: It's not so much that the show is bad it's that even if it was executed well it still would feel like a remarkably flimsy concept. I mean say it lasts a few years, what's show number 67: yet another freakin' couple is having trouble getting a pregnant and they do or don't manage to help them? The iterations of that theme in the pilot already feel like watered-down Lifetime movie-of-the-week pitches as it is, what's the incentive to watch then? Even worse is that whatever good will the show builds up is spoiled by a twisted ending which involves a specimen cup, a woman on her knees and switching a sample. Don't worry, I'll say it for you: ewwwwwwwww.
The challenges ahead: Will this be the first show to get canceled (as the industry already seems to believe)? Is there really an audience for this type of show? And is there a way I can erase my memories of it? Unfortunately we'll only know the answer to two of these questions this fall on NBC.