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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.]
DANNI LOWKINSKI (BUSTED CW PILOT)
(written by Jennie Snyder Urman; directed by Richard Shepard; TRT: 32:58)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out? The pilot was shot as a presentation, meaning not all the scenes from the script were shot. Should it have moved forward to series, the missing sequences would have subsequently been filmed for the final pilot.
The plot in a nutshell: "Two things my mom taught me," explains Daniella "Danni" Lowinski (Amanda Walsh) about her late mother in the opening narration. "One: always go after what you want no matter how hard you have to work. And two: never compromise who you are." Said advice came in handy during her pursuit of a law degree, as she spent the last seven years as a hairdresser in order to pay for night school. "I'm a friggin' lawyer!" she exclaims to her best friend Kaz (Carla Gallo), much to the horror of fellow grad Charlotte (Natalia Cigliuti), who turns her nose up at Danni's loud outfits and attitude. She's not the only one either: her hairdresser-rags-to-lawyer-riches-story doesn't exactly bowl over her potential employers.
Thankfully she finds someone who gets her in nice guy Oliver Sachs (Neal Bledsoe). Unfortunately the job he thinks she's interviewing for is an assistant, not an actual lawyer. And with that her legal eagle dreams are officially crushed, as she finds herself considering crawling back to the salon. After all, her bills aren't going to pay themselves and her wheelchair-bound father Gus (George Dzundza) is getting to be more and more of a handful at home. Inspiration however strikes while visiting Kaz at her pretzel kiosk at the mall: she could just open her own law practice right there ("This is my happy place, these are my people!" she declares).
And so, Danni's awesome-legal-advice-for-$1.00-a-minute practice is born. While far from an out of the gate success, she does land her first client: an immigrant maid who was fired by her host family when she was injured on the job. And much to her surprise the lawyer defending said family is none other than the aforementioned Oliver. He, like everyone else so far, underestimates our "My Cousin Vinny" in training and she manages to sway the appointed judge into letting their lawsuit go to trial. Her first battle won, now comes the war, one that Oliver finds he's looking forward to.
What works: Walsh and Gallo have their moments but its "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" meets "My Cousin Vinny" hook...
What doesn't: ...is just as silly as it sounds. Said feat is best encapsulated when Danni, while trying to sway the mall landlord who won't rent to her because there's no precedent for a law practice kiosk, gives a rousing speech about how if people only followed precedents, Brown v. Board of Education would have never passed (complete with workers coincidentally unfurling an American flag behind her as she finishes). Even setting aside the ridiculousness of equating ending segregation with opening a mall kiosk, it's a howlingly fatuous moment. Coupled with the usual parade of trying-to-make-it tropes - from breaking her heel after a hard day to finding a stack of mail all with "past due" stamped in comically large letters - the show never distinguishes itself beyond the obvious.
Making matters worse is that the show desperately wants to sell its dramatic undercurrent - that Danni went to law school because of the injustice she saw when her father signed away his disability benefits to a slick lawyer - and paint Danni as a Erin Brockovich-esque crusader for the underdog. She instead comes across as "Lawyer Spice," who can't figure out whether to sit or stand in front of the judge, battles printer issues with her bedazzled laptop and perennially puts her foot in her mouth ("I can assure you, I'm very cheap," she tells the aforementioned landlord while wearing a low-cut top. "My fee, I mean."). It's one thing to be humorously unprepared for the job at hand, it's another to seem almost debilitatingly ill-equipped to handle the profession itself. All in all, "Danni Lowinski" feels like it's drowning in quicksand comprised of silliness: the more it tries to escape...
The bottom line: ...the sillier it gets.