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So you've seen all of the new shows this fall - but what about the ones that didn't make the cut? For the next 30 days we're going to take a "first look" at a collection of 30 pilots that didn't land on the 2009-10 season schedule. Are there any gems that got passed over or are they all deservedly locked in the networks' vaults? Stay tuned.
RONNA & BEVERLY (Showtime)
(written by Jessica Chaffin, Jamie Denbo & Jenji Kohan; directed by Paul Feig; TRT: 27:38)
What is it? A single-camera comedy about two lifelong best friends/self-professed dating experts.
Who was behind it?: Jenji Kohan ("Weeds") co-wrote the half-hour alongside leads Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo based on their improv show. Paul Feig ("The Office") directed.
The plot in a nutshell: After self-publishing "You'll Do a Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Re-marriage for Jewish Singles," fortysomething best friends Ronna Glickman (Jessica Chaffin) and Beverly Ginsberg (Jamie Denbo) have anointed themselves dating gurus for the Jewish community (and beyond). Their latest speaking engagement: a group of Jewish women cancer survivors in Boston. Said event however quickly turns from helping those attending find a husband to more about exploring Ronna and Beverly's own personal neuroses. Case in point: Beverly is overly curious about what happens to your pubic hair after chemotherapy. "I prefer everything to be natural and full like God put," she notes. "Like if Gene Shalit were laying his head in my lap."
They however have bigger problems, namely that Ronna has decided to stay with another friend during their upcoming trip to New York. This of course puts Beverly over the edge as she admits she couldn't make it anyway due to a previous engagement with her contractor, Ray (apologies as I didn't recognize any of the male actors). Equally offended, the ladies head off into their own corners where Ronna has to deal with her layabout nephew/web site operator Evan and Beverly tries to actually seduce Ray, who's been hired to install a mini-fridge next to her bed. During their ensuing escapades, Beverly discovers a lump in her breast. This of course sends her running back to Ronna, who in turn takes her to Massachusetts General. There Beverly ultimately discovers it isn't cancer after all, just a side effect of menopause. She nevertheless refuses to believe the doctor. (Beverly: "It's because we dropped the bomb, isn't it?" Doctor: "I'm Korean." Beverly: "You say potato." Doctor: "I'm going.")
What works: Either I'm not in on the joke...
What doesn't: ...or it's really not funny at all. Ronna and Beverly hit all the Jewish mother stereotypes: whether it be bragging about their kids to other mothers (Ronna's Jordan goes to Tisch, not that curriculum slum that is Brown), not being able to say the word "cancer" or making inappropriate comments about other races (Beverly: "Black people sing better than white people and the fatter they are the better they sing."), they've got all the bases covered.
The hook then is that Beverly's the irrational, oversharing, crazy one ("Oh my vagina hurts when I look at you because that's where I birthed my babies.") while Ronna's the rational, reserved, crazy one ("[Ray] picked you? I'm sure all the waitresses at Santarpio's are crying their eyes out."). Together they form a clueless, crazy duo. That's really it - a wobbly "SNL"-esque sketch stretched to 27 minutes and change. (Just imagine one of these drawn out for an extended period.) I don't know, warmed over Jewish mother stereotypes for a half-hour each week?
The bottom line: Not for me.