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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: UNTITLED KOHAN/MUTCHNICK PROJECT (CBS, 2007)
(written by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick; directed by James Burrows; TRT: 22:01)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out: It's the Kohan/Mutchnick pilot that's loosely based on their lives from last season, not the Kohan/Mutchnick pilot that's loosely based on their lives for this season.
The plot in a nutshell: Best friends Danny (Jay Mohr, the straight one) and Noah (Brian Austin Green, the gay one) are the authors of a best-selling trilogy of books. But that was years ago. You see, since hitting it big the boys have grown to be content with spending their days with silly games (Noah badgers Danny if he'd rather sleep with Jude Law or an increasingly deader selection of female actresses) and dissecting each other's romantic entanglements. Thrust as their den mother then is Melanie (Jessica Capshaw), their tireless assistant (who just so happens to also harbor a huge crush on Danny). She's desperately in need of help and is hoping the slightly ditzy, girly girl Tessa (Vanessa Lengies) is up to the task. It's through Tessa's interview then that we get the 411 on the boys: Danny's your typical guys' guy, a little abrasive at times but still very sweet while Noah's bitchy, never met a boundary he didn't cross (he literally humps Melanie upon arriving at the office) and goes through nameless men (Car Cover, One O'Clock Shadow, to name a few) like tissue paper. They're also ridiculously predictable, whether it be Noah being late every day (and buying Danny a gift to make up for it) or their high-wire acts to keep their publisher off their backs, complete with codenames. Today of course proves to be more problematic than usual as Danny's divorce papers have just arrived while their editor Ivy (Amanda Brugel) is on the warpath about what the boys' next book is going to be about. The collision of both events triggers a rare real fight between the duo as Noah remarks he's thrilled to see Danny's smothering ex get the boot while Danny lets it slip that Noah will never understand marriage... because he's gay. This leaves Melanie and Tessa to pick up the pieces as the former talks Noah off the figurative ledge (but inadvertently clues him in on her crush) while the latter manages to give Danny the straight truth about his relationship with his ex. In the end though it's the boys themselves who are left to do the mending as Noah points out that while Danny may have had his marriage fail, their "marriage" has never been stronger. As for Tessa, she not only gets the job but also manages to help Danny "look" at Melanie for the first time.
What works: It's very much in the mold of Kohan and Mutchnick's signature effort "Will & Grace" but with a surprisingly sweeter edge. Sure they spend the bulk of the pilot's 22 minutes making fun of each other but when things do get nasty (see above) there's real repercussions. That's not to say the Kohan/Mutchnick wit isn't without its usual barbs - I don't think anyone else can get away with lines like - Melanie (defending Danny) "[Was that] worse than when you got a new sofa and he called it a homosectional? Worse than the fact that he leaves a cucumber on your chair every Friday night with a note that says, 'Have a great weekend you two!'" The real draw here is Green though - who knew he could be this funny? His boundary-challenged, oversexed, carefree Noah is a load of fun - I really wish he stuck with the comedy route. And while he's tasked as the "Jack" character here - complete with the "Karen"-esque Tessa - he still manages to bring something unique to the role.
What doesn't: Much like "Gary," the show's premise feels a little too "sitcomy" at times. Sure, E! and Bravo have taught us that everyone from Denise Richards to Kathy Griffin apparently requires an army of behind-the-scenes help but these do-nothing-all-day guys - authors of a book series we're literally told nothing about - really need two assistants? The show gives us its pseudo-reasons but one can't help but notice the leap in logic. That being said, this is a sitcom folks - you're not there for a Byzantine plot. All it has to do is bring the funny...
The bottom line: ...and this show definitely does.