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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.
FISH TANK (CBS)
(written by Josh Goldsmith & Cathy Yuspa; directed by Rob Greenberg; TRT: 20:47)
What is it? A multi-camera comedy about a teenage boy routinely left home alone by his commuter parents.
Who was behind it?: "'Til Death" co-creators Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa penned the script, which was directed by "How I Met Your Mother's" Rob Greenberg.
The plot in a nutshell: Owen Fisher ("Drake & Josh's" Drake Bell) used to be like most teenagers. His only problems were finding a way to get alone time with girlfriend Jessie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and best friend Gabe (Andrew Caldwell). That was until his parents, Greer (Wendie Malick) and Joel (Tom Amandes, both in glorified cameos), announced Greer was also joining the commuter ranks. You see, eye surgeon Joel already spends the work week in Manhattan and returns home to Philadelphia on the weekends. Now with Greer landing a gig at the Department of Justice in D.C., Owen will have to be on his own Sunday night through Saturday morning. And with that - along with a stern warning from Greer ("If anything goes wrong I will quit that job in a heartbeat and all the energy I was going to put towards stopping the illegal flow of guns into Mexico, I will put into you.") - Owen has the one thing every teenager wants: his own place.
But along with his newfound freedom comes a newfound responsibility, namely keeping everyone he knows from using the house as their own personal love shack/party destination. After all, he's got first dibs - Jessie has finally given him the green light to spend the night together. This of course doesn't stop new problems from getting in his way: manchild Gabe ("On his Facebook page, he lists his interests as HOT BABES and LEGO," Owen notes) has finally talked fellow pal Vanessa (Elena Franklin) into some pity sex, and needs a room; Gabe's parents - Ann (Faith Ford) and Buddy (Chris Elliott) - have put Owen in the middle of their argument over Buddy's biking hobby (don't ask); and thirtysomething, still-lives-with-his-parents landscaper Lee (Dash Mihok) has taken it upon himself to police Owen's activities while his parents aren't around. Even worse, Owen and Jessie's first night together is far from magical - he freaks out after she mentions kids and marriage.
Thankfully it's nothing that an impromptu high school party, courtesy of a just-blew-it-with-Vanessa Gabe, can't cure... or at least make his other problems seem smaller. And sure enough he has just that after Lee busts him. Owen however manages to talk his way out of it in the form of getting everyone to relocate to Lee's, who's been secretly jealous of Owen's situation. And so Owen manages to clean things up at the house and with Jessie in time for his parents' return. They however spot some evidence of his shenanigans, but decide to ignore it in the name of keeping the status quo. Yup, Owen is going to have his own place for a while.
What works: To its credit, Bell, Caldwell and company seem to be having fun; the Lee/Owen dynamic has its moments; and it's relatively harmless all around but...
What doesn't: ...setting aside the fact this show is about as outside of CBS's demographic as you could imagine, boy, does "Fish Tank's" premise feel as limp noodle as it sounds. This is essentially the show: teen boy gets to do what he wants, things happen that he can't control, he tries to fix them, he mostly succeeds and his parents purposely overlook the one thing he missed. What? So the moral of the story is do what you want because ultimately your parents are too wrapped up in their own stuff to put up much of a fuss over it? Look, I realize sitcoms aren't "The Wire" but a little character accountability and a few shades of dimension never hurt anyone. Because as it is, there's little to nothing to invest in character-wise, let alone much to laugh at. Not helping matters is that Owen's problems are about as vanilla as you can get: girlfriend will/won't have sex, best friend will/won't have sex, neighbors will/won't have sex, the end result of which doesn't really seem to affect anything. So there you have it: watching teenagers act without consequence to each other or their parents for a half an hour.
The bottom line: I'll pass.