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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three 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 or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 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 entry:
BIG DAY (ABC)
(Thursdays at 8:00/7:00c this fall)
The network's description: "If "24" married "Father of the Bride," their child would be "Big Day." Everything matters at a wedding, and the smallest imperfections can reverberate throughout the event as if lives actually hang in the balance. Choice of side salad? A trivial decision you would think, but for the mother of the bride, this might as well be the most critical decision of her life, and if you're the caterer, you'd better get it right. That's just the beginning -- the maid of honor accidentally drinks the best man's contacts after sleeping with him, and the father of the bride wants to stop the wedding. Things are about to get even more complicated for Danny and Alice, as their day turns into a season-long roller coaster where nothing goes according to plan. Over the course of an entire season, each episode will focus on one day - Danny and Alice's wedding day. The writers of "What Women Want" and "13 Going on 30" take a full season to dissect the biggest day in any family's life. Marla Sokoloff ("Desperate Housewives"), Josh Cooke ("Four Kings") and Wendie Malick ("Just Shoot Me") star."
What did they leave out: That just about covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: An 8:00 a.m. alarm clock signals the start of Alice (Marla Sokoloff) and Danny's (Josh Cooke) wedding day as each episode presumably will fill a half-hour leading up to their wedding that evening (the pilot actually ends at 8:37 a.m. so it's a somewhat inexact science). Danny is your typical male comedy lead - boyishly charming (he's a camp counselor) but still somewhat irresponsible - and Alice is your typical female comedy lead - pretty but still unsure of herself. Together they'll have to take on a host of family-related problems that range from the goofy to the vaguely serious. Alice has to deal with her control freak mother (Wendie Malick) - who's usurped the wedding planner (Stephnie Weir) - as well as her father's (Kurt Fuller) recent confession that he thinks she can do better for a husband. Danny struggles with the arrival of Alice's old college boyfriend (apologies as I didn't recognize the actor) - who still harbors a creepy attachment to her - and his old buddy (again, apologies as I didn't recognize the actor) - who himself harbors a creepy attachment to Danny. In between all this we also meet Alice's perpetually single sister Becca (Miriam Shor) who's just had a one-night stand with Danny's oafish best man Skobo (Stephen Rannazzisi). All of said events start to fracture Danny and Alice's relationship as she wonders if he'll ever "grow up" - after all, he wants to play the "What's Happening?" theme song as she walks down the isle. But as luck would have it - this is a TV show so just as a bow is tied on that problem several others start to erupt.
What works: Much like its Thursday partner "Notes from the Underbelly," it's not "bad"...
What doesn't: ...however it's not "great" either. The show more or less operates in a bland bubble where nothing's really that funny, just vaguely cute. Even the title credits - we watch as an assembly line packages the "bride and groom" tops to wedding cakes - fit the mold of the flavorless comedy that follows. It's everything you've seen before when it comes to TV and movie weddings - complete with overbearing mother, disapproving father and "always a bridesmaid" sister - all repackaged as a "real time" show. The few highlights come from the peripheral characters but they're channeling better actors and more interesting performances from other TV shows/movies - Alice's ex for instance muses about "the things he used to do to her" but he doesn't hold a candle to Owen Wilson's character in "Meet the Parents." Like I said, you're not going to find anything all that original here, despite its unorthodox (on paper at least) format.
The challenges ahead: Ditto from "Notes from the Underbelly" - does ABC really expect two new comedies ("Big Day" and "Underbelly") to post a number in the lead-off spot on Thursday nights?