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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! 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.]
THE NEW WORLD (BUSTED NBC PILOT)
(written by Peter Tolan; directed by Michael Patrick Jann; TRT: 21:25)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out? While originally dubbed "Brave New World," a title card indicates the show's final moniker was actually "The New World."
The plot in a nutshell: "Pilgrim Village is supposed to be a historically accurate representation of a pilgrim community in the year 1637," explains owner Dick (Ed Begley Jr.) to his colorful collection of employees. Unfortunately for him, his "pilgrims" are mostly teenagers who could care less or head cases that care too much. The newest of said collection of misfits is Matt (Nicholas Braun), a hapless high school grad who had to defer college in order to take care of his mom and younger brother. He quickly draws the ire of the resident douchebag Richard (Will Greenberg), who thinks because his lineage actually traces back to the Mayflower ("it's catnip to the ladies") he's somehow better than the rest of his co-workers.
Matt however has bigger concerns: his old high school crush Maura (Anna Popplewell) also works there and he's finally going to take this opportunity to... actually talk to her. Richard conversely boasts he's got the inside track with Maura as they play a couple burying their infant daughter at the cemetery ("Give me a dead baby to work with, you know I'm going to sparkle," he brags). Thankfully, Matt gains a friend in Damon (Robbie Benson), a slightly deranged, slightly stoned outdoorsman who's taken to actually living as a pilgrim ("In a way you remind me of the son I probably have somewhere," he explains to our hero).
He prods Matt to snag the cemetery role from Richard, a tactic that surprisingly works in getting Maura's attention but ends up looking like an episode of "Maury" as Richard crashes the production claiming he's the fake dead baby's father. Along the way we meet the rest of the pilgrims: Hannah (Jazz Raycole), who takes performing a little too seriously; John (Tyler Blackburn), a Native American Adonis who's always hitting on everyone; Girish (Asif Ali), John's exasperated fellow Indian ("I'm an Indian playing a Native American," he quips. "I'm offending two types of people."); Lila (apologies as I didn't recognize the actress), the town crier who roots for things to go badly; and Masterly, an ox who's always causing trouble. So overall while his new job sucks, Matt's at least got some new friends.
What works: If it sounds like a one-joke premise...
What doesn't: ...that's exactly how it plays on screen. "New World" hits all the obvious, lowest common denominator targets - Matt is put in the stockade by Dick after his cell phone rang, forcing him to break character; Masterly escapes and mounts a hatchback, much the tourists' horror; and Damon proudly urinates in public, you know, to keep things historically accurate - as there's little to no subtly or wit at play. Even the "pilgrim" humor is just as groan inducing as you'd expect ("I don't want to have to book you on a one-way return trip on the Mayflower... fire you, that's how we say it here," Dick tells Matt after his latest transgression.).
If anything the show feels like a skit on "Saturday Night Live" circa 12:45 a.m. as all the aforementioned beats are repeated multiple times - look, now the ox is loose at a gas station!; Richard mentions he's an actual Mayflower descendant, again; Matt gets sent to the stockade, again; etc. - with no real exit strategy. Damon caps the show with a half-hearted speech about how we all have a "brave new world" to chase after or something to that effect, but it's just an afterthought for the running gag that he's really high. All in all, is there a silly five-minute sketch in here? Probably. A series?
The bottom line: Probably not.