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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:
THICK AND THIN (NBC)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "From multi Emmy-Award winning producer Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video Television comes this half-hour comedy about Mary (Jessica Capshaw, "The Practice"), a formerly fat woman who embarks on a new journey as a fit and newly single woman. That's easier said than done, however, when Mary's family and friends still see her as her former self. They include her overweight mother (multiple Emmy winner Sharon Gless, "Cagney and Lacey"), her overweight younger sister (newcomer Amy Halloran), her father (Martin Mull, "Roseanne"), and her weight-loss program buddy (Mel Rodriguez, "Panic Room"). But it is at the pool-and-spa company franchise she owns in suburban Florida that she finds her most unlikely confidant, her brother-in-law (Chris Parnell, NBC's "Saturday Night Live"), the company's "leotard-ed" spokesperson named "Captain Chlorine." When a cringe-worthy misstep lands her in bed with her ex, she realizes that getting thin was less about pleasing others -- and more about being comfortable in her own skin."
What did they leave out: That more or less covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: Soon-to-be-divorced pool-and-spa store owner (say that five times fast) Mary (Jessica Capshaw) has lost more than 60 pounds, hitting her goal weight after years of struggling. But her overweight family isn't making it easy: her mom (Sharon Gless) still puts butter on her nachos, her sister (Amy Halloran) is just thrilled that she's not gaining any more weight and her dad (Martin Mull) is just plain clueless. They mean well though, as do her bartender friend (Mel Rodriguez) and her dopey brother-in-law/co-worker Lyle (Chris Parnell). So now that her body has received a makeover (she's really "rocking those jeans" a stranger notes), will her mind follow? After all she's still used to being the girl that's ignored at bars and taken advantage of by her ex, who just happens to want to stir things up again after seeing the "new" Mary.
What works: Obviously, kudos to the producers and NBC for trying something different on TV. When practically every other show out there is filled with girls who look like they fell off the cover of Maxim, it's refreshing to see a series that embraces those that don't.
What doesn't: Any of the goodwill instilled from the above is quickly washed away by a painfully predictable plot and awkward jokes about being fat. Quick example: when a stranger tells Mary's sister she can't fit into her bikini, she responds "really, I can't see my cooch." (Insert awkward cricket-chirping noise here.) All of the humor in the show beats to death the idea that everyone on the show is fat (or used to be fat) - Mary's sister eats an entire bowl of barbecue sauce, thinking it's a bowl of soup; her parents bake her a post-divorce cheer-up cake only to eat it in the car; and Mary slow dances with a bag of chips after a bad date. There's just no opportunity to enjoy these characters without having fat jokes jammed down the audience's throat. We get it, they're fat (or used to be fat). It just gets old really quick. The only alternative is the slumming Chris Parnell, who's forced to dress up (leotards and all) as "Captain Chlorine," a character which feels like a washed-up "SNL" gag. Even worse is the wet noodle of a plot, which consists of Mary's ex all of a sudden treating her nice now that she's thin. I wonder if he'll be a jerk in the end?!
The challenges ahead: Can the show make a non-fat joke for once? Really, can it? We'll find out at midseason on NBC.