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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: THE MORE THINGS CHANGE... (ABC, 2007)
(written by Allan Loeb; directed by Todd Phillips; TRT: 22:08)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out: David Bowie's "Changes" is used as the show's theme song.
The plot in a nutshell: As the title suggests, the more things change for best friends Rick (Chris Johnson), Nesby (Paulo Costanzo), Wayne (Reno Wilson) and Blair (Tom Parker), the more they stay the same. For Wayne, it's being constantly at odds with his soon-to-be-wife Diana (Aimee Garcia). Their latest spat - on their wedding day no less - involves Diana suggesting Wayne shave his goatee, since after all she "owns half his face" now. For Rick, it's leaving yet another girl - Madeline (Sasha Barrese), in this case - in his wake. For stockbroker Blair, it's counting his millions and agonizing about his fantasy football team. And for Nesby, it's always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. But for once things do change - as Rick announces the reason behind his frequent break-ups... he's gay. It's a revelation that the guys take in varying degrees - Nesby is supportive, Wayne is in denial and Blair is angry. After all, how many times did they pick up girls together? And what about when he asked to borrow his porn? ("I thought I was supposed to," Rick confesses). Not sure what to do (Rick's never even kissed a guy), he seeks out Madeline for advice and finds she's surprisingly supportive - because as she explains, "When you broke up with me, you said, 'it's not you, it's me' and that's always a load of crap - but not with us because, you know, it really is you." As for the guys, despite their initial reactions, they eventually decide to rally around Rick by taking him to his first gay bar. There they find things really haven't changed, no matter what David Bowie says.
What works: The show is a little bit of a slow burn but eventually finds a solid groove in the "Entourage" mold of guys just being guys. The scene in which Rick comes out is laugh out loud funny as the guys treat said reveal as if he's just said he's a space alien. It's a reaction that also feels surprisingly honest - they don't really reject him, they're just overcome by the shock. Likewise the trip to the gay bar proves to be a hoot - whether it be Blair (a scene-stealing Tom Parker) getting upset about someone offering to buy him a drink ("No... [points to his suit] I'm wealthy.") or Rick failing completely at a patron's test to see if he's really gay or not. It's rare to see a comedy embrace such a male point of view. There's no learning lessons, unrequited loves or moral dilemmas. It's just four guys being the idiots that we are.
What doesn't: Like I said, "The More Things Change..." is kind of a slow burn. The opening scene in which the guys try to talk Wayne out of leaving Diana at the altar never quite clicks as everyone's name and relationship hasn't been spelled out yet. Once things settle down however the show eases into a nice rhythm without trying too hard. Helping things along is a great cast that's surprisingly comprised of mostly drama vets - only Costanzo I believe has a comedy-driven resume - all of whom I hope will continue to explore comedy. In the meantime, I'll mourn the passing of...
The bottom line: ...this potential hidden gem.