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[08/20/07 - 11:24 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Reinventing the Wheelers" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

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!

BONUS FIRST LOOK: REINVENTING THE WHEELERS (ABC)
(pilot not ordered to series)

The network's description: "A comedic hour centering on a successful female attorney who ends up joining her father's family law practice when she leaves her high-powered big city law firm and moves home to Savannah, Georgia, where her crazy relatives live."

What did they leave out: Among other things, "Gilmore Girls" alum David Sutcliffe guest stars as Hal, Annie's husband.

The plot in a nutshell: There is never a good time to find out your husband is cheating on you... again. For Boston-based M&A lawyer Annie Stevens (Alyssa Milano), the timing couldn't be any worse - it's while she's giving birth to their son, Andrew McCarthy (no, you didn't read that wrong). Fed up with his antics, she packs up and heads home to Charleston, South Carolina. There she finds her separated parents - mom Claire (Mary Steenburgen) and dad Tom (James Brolin) - more or less getting along as the former spends her days keeping house while the latter runs the Wheeler family's family law practice alongside her always-living-in-her-shadow brother Joey (Misha Collins). It also happens to be the eve of her father's birthday which younger sister Meg (Anna Camp) is planning. They all thankfully don't ask too many questions as Annie finds herself distracted by her newfound motherhood ("I gave birth to a colicky banana," she says about her crying, jaundiced baby) and her dad's latest case - a surrogate mother, Becky (an unrecognizable Sarah Drew), is trying to keep the soon-to-be-born baby away from its biological mother, who's back after stepping out on its biological father - Becky's brother. Nevertheless, it's not long before Hal returns hat in hand. And if that wasn't enough, it turns out that not only has Meg been secretly dating Annie's old flame (Ian Kahn) but her dad is dating her old rival (Rachel Cannon). With said knowledge in mind, it's not surprising that Tom's birthday party is a disaster and ends with Joey inadvertently punching Hal in the face. Anywho, despite the promise of eventual forgiveness - yet again - Hal decides to leave Annie for good as she inevitably decides she's going to stick around Charleston for a while and sort out her life, not to mention - as revealed in the closing moments - serve as Claire's attorney in her divorce proceedings.

What works: Relatively harmless and passingly watchable, "Wheelers" is nevertheless...

What doesn't: ...far too meandering and inconsistent to really be that enjoyable. First and foremost is the scattershot characterization of Annie, who we're told is an inspiring trailblazer (inspiring enough to make Claire want to finally leave Tom for good no less) - but instead comes across as a pushover. She's supposedly been burned for the last time by Hal, but welcomes him back with open arms when he shows up. While I get that's vaguely the point - she left town so she wouldn't be one of those people that settles for second best (like her mom), only to actually do the same thing anyway - it doesn't make for a compelling lead. It doesn't help that the proposed Meg-Peter-Annie love triangle is jawdroppingly lifeless and that the central case is painfully pedestrian - aspects which only make Annie's limp noodle facets all the more glaring. The real killer however is the regular appearance and disappearance of each character's "Southern" accent. One minute James Brolin is James Brolin, the next he's Foghorn Leghorn. The same goes for Mary Steenburgen, who finds her inner Southern belle every other scene. In fact only Camp and Collins manage passable accents, while Milano's character doesn't even have the hint of one (a little odd considering she only left town six years ago). But considering the show's inherent problems, said gripe seems more like the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. In the end...

The bottom line: ...you're not missing much here.





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