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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.]
NATHAN VS. NURTURE (NBC)
(written by David Guarascio & Moses Port; directed by James Burrows; TRT: 22:51)
The network's description: No official description has been released...
What did they leave out? ...so everything.
The plot in a nutshell: Arthur Bennett (Bill Pullman) has finally found Nathan, the son he and his late wife had in high school and gave up for adoption. In the 35 years since he's had three others sons - dim-bulb writer Daniel (Mikey Day), fastidious therapist Robert (Will Greenberg) and sardonic car salesman Joel (Joel David Moore), all his prides and joys, but the guilt of abandoning his firstborn still haunts him to this day. And so Arthur decides to visit Nathan, who's revealed to be Griffin Birk (Jay Harrington), a successful, womanizing heart surgeon who just so happens to live across town. "I am hearing an extremely rapid heart rate," Griffin says to Arthur, who pretends to be a patient. "That's because I love you!" Arthur declares, revealing his true intentions.
And so Griffin agrees to meet the family he never knew, who all excitedly swarm around him like a savior and try to cram the years they've missed into one afternoon. Whether it's opening 35 years worth of Christmas gifts, having a catch or posing for family photos, they're going to be a family again as soon as possible. The problem is - wait for it - overnight the Bennetts quickly insert themselves into every aspect of Griffin's life, from Daniel inviting himself over to hang out at midnight to Robert rearranging his apartment to Joel confronting him about taking over as the eldest sibling to Arthur literally cheering him on during surgery. They're developments that freak out the usually commitment phobic Griffin. Ultimately though, whether he likes it or not, the Bennetts manage to worm their way into Griffin's heart.
What works: Sigh...
What doesn't: ...that was, how about creepy? "Nathan vs. Nurture" is just a weird, only-on-TV kind of show as aside from Griffin, virtually no one acts like an actual human being. The Bennetts are cartoons come to life who alternate between not making sense (Robert: "I was going to take [Griffin] to a movie this weekend to get a couch.") and not being funny (Arthur: "These are your [Christmas] stockings: Nathan with an A, Nathon with an O, because we didn't know if you wanted to go by Nathon."). It doesn't help that the laugh track would make you believe the aforementioned quotes are hysterical instead of the awkward, lead balloons that they are.
The above is intermixed with some genuinely head scratching moments (everyone makes Griffin go by Nathan, because that's what his father originally named him and that's how they remember him in family lore; inspired by Griffin's return, Daniel finally starts to write... by coping the first 27 pages of Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment"; Robert gleefully wraps gifts in misleading sized boxes because he thinks it will be he and Griffin's little joke) and it's no wonder that Griffin doesn't run for the hills screaming. Toss in some thankless female roles (Joy Osmanski turns up as Lexi, Daniel's enabling girlfriend, and an actress I didn't recognize plays Padma, Griffin's gal pal/co-worker) and that's really it. And while it's certainly not an epic fail, it's still...
The bottom line: ...something best left on the shelf.