[05/29/10 - 12:33 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Awkward Situations for Men" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind 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. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]

(written by Danny Wallace, Jackie Filgo & Jeff Filgo; directed by Andy Ackerman; TRT: 22:29)

The network's description: "Have you ever noticed how hard it is to fit into a new place? For a transplanted Brit, assimilating into San Francisco society is an agonizingly awkward exercise in futility. No matter how hard he tries to fit in, Danny Wallace just sticks out. When social graces are completely foreign to you, how are you supposed to fit in to a foreign land? Danny is a columnist who moves from England to San Francisco for his American wife Meg's new job. Despite Danny's best efforts to grasp the differences between the two cultures, he somehow always manages to cause a scene. From embarrassing first impressions to jaw-dropping misunderstandings, Danny's never met a social situation he couldn't bungle.

As Meg settles in to her new job working with her boss, and former lover, Bob (aka "The Smoothie King"), Danny hangs out at his local British pub with Will, a misguided travel writer who Googles instead of going places. Their friend, Brian, the bartender at the pub, dispenses bone-headed advice along with the beer. At least Danny's comic misadventures provide plenty of fodder for his popular column. If people aren't laughing with you, might as well let them laugh at you. Inspired by his book Awkward Situations For Men, British sensation Danny Wallace co-writes and co-executive produces along with Jeff and Jackie Filgo (That 70's Show). It's a wry observational comedy that highlights the absurd minutia of day-to-day life."

What did they leave out? Hey look it's a theme song! Wallace and the cast perform a song and dance number - complete with sing-along titles - telling the story of how he came to the U.S.

The plot in a nutshell: Ex-pat/comedian/newspaper columnist Danny Wallace (as "himself") loves the idiosyncrasies that distinguish Americans and his native Brits. They wear baseball caps! They eat hamburgers! And sometimes without mayonnaise at that! Whatever they are he's going to have to get used to them. Newly married to Meg (Laura Prepon), he's followed her to the U.S. where she's been promoted at the corporate home of Jamba Juice Smoothie Face. And if making it through the day without offending anyone isn't enough of a challenge, Danny's got to deal with Meg working with her ex-boyfriend Bob (Matt Letscher, whose usual awesomeness is derailed by an unfortunate mullet-esque haircut). Even worse, Bob's actually nice to him and goes so far as to say they should hang out.

It's much to his surprise however when his only American friend Will (Tony Hale), a travel writer who refuses to actually travel, explains Bob was just being polite and actually doesn't want to be friends. Danny nevertheless insists he did mean it and - wait for it - wackiness ensues. Meanwhile, Meg has her own mess to clean up - literally. She, while trying to play down to her co-workers the fact she used to date their boss, inadvertently exposes herself to her new assistant, Kevin (apologies as I didn't recognize the actor). And so our hapless husband and wife duo continue to dig themselves in holes so deep (Danny keeps on calling Bob to correct his message, Meg keeps on finding new ways to accidentally expose herself) that their problems ultimately overlap (Bob plans to tell Meg what's going on, Kevin plans to tell Danny and Bob what's going on), creating more wackiness. At the end of the day though, Danny and Meg decide while the rest of the world may not get them, they get each other.

What works: It's a relatively cute show. While not laugh-out-loud funny there's some amusing, low-key moments. Collectively though...

What doesn't: ...they never spark the kind of high-strung "Frasier"-esque farce they're ultimately trying for. Not helping things along is Wallace's unabashed cluelessness - he takes everything at face value, whether it be believing Will that the word "douche" means "rascal" or kissing his landlord full on the lips after witnessing Meg double kiss her on the cheek. And while it's obviously played off by saying Danny is just being a loveable Brit ("In England, I'm considered relatively normal," he mutters to himself after being busted), trying to get by in our "nation of adorable puppies," it strains reality. The show is also filmed in an odd hybrid mix of single- and multi-camera, the latter of which seems to only exist as an excuse to have a laugh track. Ultimately, "Situations" is a fun showcase for Wallace's brand of humor...

The bottom line: ...just not necessarily a great television show.

  [may 2010]  


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