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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.]
PERFECT COUPLES (NBC)
(written by Jon Pollack & Scott Silveri; directed by Andy Ackerman; TRT: 22:49)
The network's description: ""Perfect Couples" depicts the misadventures of three engaging couples as they struggle to find out what makes the ideal relationship -- and how to maintain it through humorous trial-and-error. The series explores their heroic journey in search of the perfect relationship without destroying each other in the process. Dave (Kyle Howard, "My Boys") and Julia (Christine Woods, "Flash Forward") are the relatable, normal couple, but Julia's hope of remaining the cool, low-maintenance chick is tested by Dave's attempts to keep both his wife and his needy best friend Vance (David Walton, "Heist") equally happy. Vance, along with the neurotic Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), are the high-passion, high-drama couple who bring out the best and worst in each other.
The third duo features Rex (Hayes MacArthur, "She's Out of My League"), a reformed party guy, and, and his wife, Leigh (Olivia Munn, "Attack of the Show"), who considers herself as the group's mother hen. Believing that they are relationship experts, Rex and Leigh have attended every class and seminar on relationships -- and regard themselves as the "perfect couple." Jon Pollack ("30 Rock") and Scott Silveri ("Friends") are the executive producers while Andy Ackerman ("Seinfeld," "The New Adventures of Old Christine") is the director. The series is produced by Universal Media Studios."
What did they leave out? Aside from rumblings that Howard may be recast due to his "My Boys" duties, that's about it.
The plot in a nutshell: "We're on a whole different level," good-natured Dave (Kyle Howard) says about his low-maintenance relationship with Julia (Christine Woods). "We are like the Connecticut women's basketball team. We're so dominant it's not even fun to watch." You see, as compared to their friends, they're just about perfect. Julia's brother Rex (Hayes MacArthur) and his wife Leigh (Olivia Munn) are overly intrusive planners, calmly trying to smile their way through their problems as they envision themselves to be relationship experts. Dave's pal/business partner Vance (David Walton) and his girlfriend Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) are dysfunctionally bipolar as they either want to rip each other's clothes off out of passion or throw things at each other out of rage.
Said relationships often find Dave and Julia as the peacemakers, sometimes to the detriment of their own lives. Case in point: it's Dave and Julia's anniversary and yet Vance, after his latest meltdown with Amy, invites himself to move in, while Rex and Leigh keep on trying to crash their plans. And as they struggle to put out the aforementioned fires, our "perfect couple" discovers they may not be as perfect as advertised. Julia, it turns out, needs a little more than the bare minimum to be happy while Dave's been playing dumb about realizing just that. So while they aren't on the fringes of crazy like their friends, they're not Connecticut women's basketball either. "We're like Lee High," Dave begrudgingly admits.
What works: It's basically a slightly more funny, moderately more grown up version of "Friends With Benefits." To that end it's a pretty vanilla show with fairly boilerplate problems: Vance and Amy run hot, Rex and Leigh run cold and Dave and Julia are supposedly just right. But it helps that Howard and Woods are a likeable pair, cringing at the escalating insanity of their friends...
What doesn't: ...who conversely come across as caricatures. Rex has a not-so-secret-drinking problem, something the show hammers home incessantly. Even worse, he and Leigh try to laugh it off as no big deal, the joke being oh isn't hilarious that they think they know everything but they continue to ignore the giant elephant in the room! Vance likewise is co-dependent to the point of creepy, a facet that's thankfully diffused a little by his amusingly specific complaints (after being kicked out by Dave: "I went to a hotel. It was worse than I thought. They made me sign up for a rewards program! And then I had to watch some movie with Kate Hudson and an Australian guy whose accent kept coming out!").
Toss in another round of "really?-five-of-your-six-leads-are-white?" comedy casting with some painfully recycled gags - a disastrous game night feels like a Second City sketch from 20 years ago - and you have a forgettable-albeit-watchable half-hour of television. But when you stack it up against NBC's current stable of Thursday night comedies...
The bottom line: ...it's not even Lee High.