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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "Having navigated the awkward and sometimes traumatic world of high school, Rebecca Freely returns to her alma mater as a guidance counselor, free of the insecurities and orthodontia of her school days. Amidst student behavioral problems and the persistent romantic advances of the male nurse, Gary, Rebecca is certain of one thing - she is interested in the hot auto-shop-turned-Spanish-teacher, Tim. However, much as in high school days of unexpected teenage angst, Lisa, a former cheerleader and nemesis of Rebecca's, returns as the new English teacher determined to make Rebecca relive her unpopular past, setting sights on Tim as well."
What did they leave out: It's from creator Caroline Williams and executive producer Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Films.
The plot in a nutshell: Guidance counselor Rebecca Freely (a delightful Judy Greer) is the de facto queen of Glen Ellen High School. Her awkward high school years behind her, she's come back to help this generation's troubled teens. After all, she's down with the lingo - she greets students with "Hey peeps, what's the haps?" - and knows exactly when to step in, whether it be to steal a pastry from a heavy set girl and give it to an emaciated one or to correct a cheerleader's banner ("Gina, homecoming is spelled 'com,'" she grimaces). But - in case you didn't notice - she's also very much in her own little world. But that's okay - Gary the awkward school nurse (Jonathan Sadowski) pines after her, Mr. Huffy the lonely principal (Earl Billings) is just happy to have someone remotely attractive at work and the hunky Spanish teacher Tim is oblivious to her affections. That however is about the change as her old nemesis Lisa (Brooke Burns) has just taken a job in the English department, sparking old rivalries (Becky likewise secretly pined for Lisa's high school boyfriend, who shared a brief scene with in their high school production of "The Sound of Music") - not to mention amusing "Friends"-esque flashbacks. Even worse, she's set her sights on Tim, asking him to the "Midnight Hula"-themed homecoming dance, which Becky just happens to chair. On the flip side, Lisa's return also gives her a much needed wake-up call as she comes to realize she is kind of a weirdo - and she's cool with that.
What works: Pretty much a mix of "The Office" (complete with documentary crew and confessional interviews) and "Scrubs" (complete with offbeat dance numbers and whimsical flashbacks), "Miss/Guided" wisely apes the best aspects of both. The real hero here however is Greer herself, who's as charming and funny as she's ever been. I mean, if the idea of her doing an elaborately choreographed dance routine to Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" or lip syncing to the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha" while spying on the homecoming dance doesn't at least make you smile - this is going to be a long review for you. The supporting cast likewise is just as promising - from Kristoffer Polaha's Tim confessing he's only one language lab ahead of the kids to Earl Billings's sardonic Mr. Huffy repeatedly reminding the kids that there's "no groping, no grinding" at the dance, all the seeds for a well-rounded ensemble are sown here. Even the kids prove to be a lot of fun, such as "Gilmore Girls's" Vanessa Marano as Becky's present-day doppelganger and "Spy Kids's" Daryl Sabara as the resident weirdo ("Can I touch your boob?" he asks Becky. "No sweetie," Becky deadpans.).
What doesn't: On the flip side, your reaction to the show will very much depend on how much you enjoy Greer. I mean if her closing speech to Sabara's character - "But why is weird such a bad thing? Fitting in isn't always the answer. There was once a large, European family who didn't know how to love until a friendly nun came and made them matching outfits and taught them to sing about raindrops and kittens. They didn't fit in, do you know why?" "Because they're retarded," he responds. "No, it was because of the Nazis," she adds. "And retarded isn't a therapeutic term." - doesn't elicit a giggle then this isn't the show for you.
The bottom line: A great lead, a funny show and good television.