Thursday, November 01, 2012

ABC Fall Pilot Review: Malibu Country - Premieres November 2

Malibu Country

Malibu Country - Fridays 8:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Friday, November 2, 2012 at 8:30PM ET/PT


Country music superstar/actress Reba McEntire (Reba, Tremors) returns to television as a wife and mother whose world is turned upside-down when she discovers that her country music legend husband has a cheatin' heart.

On her way to becoming a country star herself, Reba put her career on hold to raise a family. Husband Bobby always emphasized family values in his music, but with the very public discovery of his numerous affairs, Reba decides to not stand by her man. Now, with a divorce pending, Reba packs up her sharp-tongued southern mother, Lillie Mae (Lily Tomlin, Laugh-In, Damages, Desperate Housewives, The West Wing, Nine to Five, Nashville), and her two kids and U-Hauls it straight to sunny California to begin a new chapter in life. Leaving Nashville in the rear view mirror, they start over at their Malibu residence -- the last remaining asset they have, and Bobby's former secret love nest.

Once the most popular boy in his Nashville high school, Reba's teenaged son, Cash, finds himself feeling positively average compared to the good looking, affluent Malibu boys -- a fate worse than death! On the other hand, Reba's teen daughter, June (Juliette Angelo, New Year's Eve), never really fit in with her peers. In Malibu she blends in perfectly and finds a new best friend in Sage, an openly gay neighborhood boy who embraces his sexuality. Tough-as-nails mom Lillie Mae discovers the serenity of Southern California living and fully embraces her new laid-back, relaxed lifestyle. But Reba learns that relocating to Malibu is going to be quite a challenge to her traditional southern values. The West Coast seems like the polar opposite of Music City, and she feels like an outsider. Her gregarious and very liberal new neighbor and Sage's stepmother, Kim (Sara Rue, Less Than Perfect), doesn't have many friends and immediately attaches herself to Reba, enthusiastically offering to mentor her in becoming a little less country a bit more California cool.

When Reba discovers that trying to revive her career is going to be an uphill battle, she befriends Geoffrey (Jai Rodriguez, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), the assistant to her new music agent. With his help and unorthodox methods, she might yet have a chance to become a chart topper. Still, in the end it's family that matters most to Reba, as each member of hers learns to view this new Malibu lifestyle as a chance to begin anew.

Cast Details:

Reba McEntire as Reba
* Lily Tomlin as Lillie Mae
* Sara Rue as Kim
* Justin Prentice as Cash
* Juliette Angelo as June
* Jai Rodriguez as Geoffrey

On television Reba McEntire (Reba) starred for six seasons in the hit series Reba, as well as the television movies The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw, opposite Kenny Rogers, The Man from Left Field, with Burt Reynolds, Is There Life Out There?, Buffalo Girls, opposite Anjelica Huston and Melanie Griffith, Forever Love and Secret of Giving. On Broadway she starred in the musical Annie Get Your Gun and as Ensign Nellie Forbush in the musical South Pacific, which was filmed and aired as an episode of Great Performances. On the big screen she starred in the science fiction classic Tremors, alongside Kevin Bacon, North, opposite Elijah Wood, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The Little Rascals and One Night at McCools, co-starring Liv Tyler. She has also lent her voice to the film Charlotte's Web as Betsy the Cow, Fox and the Hound 2 as Dixie and the animated television series Hercules as Artemis.

Lily Tomlin (Lillie Mae) made her television debut in 1966 on The Garry Moore Show and then made several memorable appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, which led to a move to California, where she appeared as a regular on Music Scene. In December 1969 she joined the cast of the top-rated Laugh-In and immediately rose to national prominence with her characterizations of Ernestine, the irascible telephone operator, and Edith Ann, the devilish six-year-old. When Laugh-In left the air, Tomlin went on to co-write, with Jane Wagner, and star in six comedy television specials -- The Lily Tomlin Show (1973), Lily (1973), Lily Tomlin (1975), Lily: Sold Out (1981) and Lily for President? (1982), for which she won three Emmy awards and a Writers Guild of America award. Tomlin also starred in the HBO special about the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On (1993). She has guest starred on such television shows as Homicide: Life on the Street, The X-Files and Will & Grace, and played the boss on CBS' Murphy Brown. She is also heard as the voice of science teacher Ms. Frizzle on the popular children's animated series, The Magic School Bus, for which she was awarded an Emmy.

In 2002 Tomlin joined the cast of the hit NBC series, The West Wing, playing President Bartlett's assistant, Debbie Fiderer -- a role for which she received a 2003 Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series. In the past few years, Tomlin has made several guest appearances on Desperate Housewives, NCIS and Eastbound and Down, and guest starred in the acclaimed FX series, Damages, in the Emmy-nominated role of a matriarch of a wealthy New York family accused of financial fraud. Tomlin can also be seen on Showtime's series, Web Therapy, as Lisa Kudrow's narcissistic mother.

Sara Rue's (Kim) acting career began at age nine when she was cast as Kevin Spacey's daughter and Burt Lancaster's granddaughter in the film Rocket Gibraltar. Shortly thereafter she won critical acclaim for her television series debut in the comedy Grand. Since then she has appeared as a series regular on various shows, including Phenom, Minor Adjustments, Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane, Popular and Eastwick. She is best known for her starring role in ABC's Less Than Perfect. Following that, Chuck Lorre added Rue for recurring appearances on Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. For the past two years she has had a recurring role on Rules of Engagement as Brenda, Patrick Warburton's lesbian best friend and surrogate.

Justin Prentice (Cash) has made guest appearances on Criminal Minds, Melissa & Joey, The Middle, Victorious, iCarly and Suburgatory. His film credits include Terri and Me Again.

Juliette Angelo (June) made her Broadway debut at age eight in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. From there she joined the original Broadway cast of Billy Elliot, which won a Tony Award for Best Musical, then continued in the role of Jane Banks in Disney's Mary Poppins. In film, Juliette has had roles in Gary Marshall's New Years Eve.

Jai Rodriguez (Geoffrey) has achieved great success as an actor on stage and screen, and as host of one of television's most memorable reality series. His most notable role to-date was his stint as host of Bravo's Emmy Award-winning reality program Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Other hosting credits include Animal Planet's Groomer Has It, co-host of Ultimate Style and the pre-show of the 2009 American Music Awards. Rodriguez served as co-creator and co-executive producer of the Logo's Bad Sex and host/producer of SiTV's Styleyes. In feature film Rodriguez was featured in the role of "Sabu" on the acclaimed 2005 big screen version of The Producers. Guest starring credits in television series as Bones, Harry's Law and the daytime drama Days of Our Lives. He also appears in the smash hit music video Telephone, starring Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.

Pilot Episode:

"Pilot" (November 2, 8:30PM) - In the premiere episode, "Pilot," Reba very publicly discovers that her country music legend husband, Bobby Gallagher, has been cheating on her. Determined to get a fresh start and perhaps revive her own country music career, Reba packs up her sharp-tongued mother and two kids and drives cross country to live in Bobby's Malibu beach-front party pad. Once there, gregarious and over-sharing neighbor Kim immediately reaches out with an offer to mentor Reba as she adjusts to Southern California. With a new home and a much more liberal west coast set of rules, Reba, her kids and mom welcome the change, but soon realize that the open-mindedness of Southern California goes much farther than they'd expected. When Reba finds that trying to get her foot back in the music business is going to be an uphill battle, she befriends Geoffrey, the assistant to her record label's president -- who never seems to be in the office. Though overwhelmed and feeling out of place, Reba realizes that, all in all, family is what matters most, and they must learn to view their new Malibu lifestyle as a chance for a new beginning.
Written by Kevin Abbott
Directed by John Pasquin
Guest Stars: Jeffrey Nordling as Bobby, Hudson Thames as Sage

Analysis:

Malibu Country is a multi-camera sitcom from ABC Studios and Laura Ziskin Productions. It is executive-produced by Kevin Abbott (Last Man Standing, My Name Is Earl, Reba), Michael Hanel (Reba, Titus), Mindy Schultheis (Reba, Titus), Reba McEntire, Narvel Blackstock, Dave Stewart (member of the rock group The Eurythmics), who also created the series, and Pamela Oas Williams (The Amazing Spider-Man).

In the "Pilot" episode, a video segment is shown on Celebrity Insider Network that shows that Reba's country music singer husband, Bobby Gallagher, cheating on her with another woman. Bobby announces at a press conference that he is suspending his "These Vows Are Sacred" tour to spend more time with his family. Reba tells the crowd that she's leaving his lyin', cheatin' butt. Reba loads up her family in the car and drives to Malibu where Bobby has a beach-front home. Their new neighbor, Kim, introduces herself to Reba and Lillie Mae with hugs. Kim and Reba talk at the table. Cash, Reba's teenage son, wants to go back to Nashville. June introduces her new friend Sage to Reba. Reba goes to meet a record label's president and talks to his assistant, Geoffrey. Reba and Lillie Mae talk on the deck. Lillie Mae shows her the happy lollipop (medical marijuana) that she received. Later that day, she catches June and Sage kissing at Sage's house. Reba tells the family that she's moving them back to Tennessee. Reba and Lillie Mae have a heart-to-heart talk where Lillie Mae tells her that her husband also cheated on her. Reba writes a song as "The New Me" is played over the montage. Reba takes the song that she has written to show Geoffrey her hook. The episode concludes with Reba playing the song for her family's reaction.

I don't think it's the best sitcom pilot of the season, but it's certainly watchable and has potential to grow into something bigger and better. It definitely has a sitcom-y feel to it. It's kind of a throwback to the TGIF sitcoms of the 1990s and early 2000s. For a sitcom in a family-friendly timeslot, I was surprised by the amount of jokes about gays, plastic surgery and boobs, and medical marijuana. I guess kids are accustomed to those types of jokes these days, but I don't think the show is really geared towards anybody younger than 13. The laugh track volume also seems a bit high and could be lowered a bit.

They have some good things to work with in the series. The adult actresses bring a lot of comedic experience to the table. They seem to have some good chemistry already. I think Reba is a better singer than actress, but she does a good job here. She has a lot of spunk and charm. Comedy isn't easy to do, but she's always had natural appeal and good comedic timing. Lily Tomlin is a seasoned pro. Her Lillie Mae is a bit crazy and a pot-smoking grandmother. She's kind of like a modern-day Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. She has a few good one-liners, but also a few cringeworthy ones like "I just saw a pelican poop." Sara Rue plays the upbeat friend and neighbor of Reba. Her character isn't too unlike Barbara Jean on Reba, which is probably by design. Rue looks much different here than she has in the guest appearances she's made on various shows in recent years. She's blonde and appears more curvy like her Less Than Perfect days. She's beautiful and funny no matter what size she is. Rue is pregant in real life and due in early 2013, so it's expected the producers will write that into the storylines. The teenage actors are relatively new to acting, but they do a decent job here. Juliette Angelo looks like she could really be Reba's daughter with her red hair. Jai Rodgriguez has some funny exchanges with Reba when they meet at the music agent's office. It's hilarious when he asks Reba if she's young and sexy and she asks her if there are any other choices.

Music will likely be a big part of the show. Reba performs the show's theme song, Goodbye Looks Good On Me. It wasn't used in the screener copy, so I don't know if it will be heard in the pilot episode that airs. It's expected that a full version will be heard in an upcoming episode. Reba does sing a new song called The New Me in the pilot episode. It was co-written by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, who also helped create the show. Another interesting news item that I've read is that they are trying to get Carol Burnett to play Kim's (Sara Rue) mother on the show. How great would it be to see her work with Lily Tomlin? I would also expect that Reba's country music friends and maybe some of her former Reba cast members will eventually make guest appearances. Rapper Travie McCoy is appearing as himself in an upcoming episode.

Conclusion:

Reba's new sitcom is a lot like her old one. It comes from some of the same producers of Reba. Reba had a successful six-season run from 2001-2007. The show remains very popular on DVD and in syndication to this day. I can't really blame them for trying to model her new sitcom after it. It's a format that McEntire appears to be comfortable with. She has said in interviews that she loves to be on television. This time she plays a single mother of two kids, down from three in her old series. Her character's first name is also Reba. Sara Rue plays a similiar character to the ditzy Barbara Jean on Reba. The uniqueness of the show is that they're putting a family from Tennessee into California. It's kind of like a modern-day Beverly Hillbillies, so it should set up some funny moments. The adult cast brings a lot of comedic experience and all of the characters are very likable. Reba is in every scene, so I think they will need to expand the roles of some of the supporting characters in future episodes. The show could use a little less Reba and a little more of the delightful Sara Rue. Much will be made about Reba's return to television after a five-year break, but I'm more excited to see Rue in a lead role instead of the guest appearances she's been making in recent years.

Malibu Country is being paired with the Tim Allen multi-camera sitcom Last Man Standing on Friday nights. ABC hasn't aired many sitcoms on Fridays in recent years, so it's nice to have these two form a mini-TGIF block. They are now referring to it as ABC Comedy Friday. Reality shows and dramas have dominated the schedules on Fridays in recent seasons. It's just nice to see the networks schedule more scripted series, especially multi-camera sitcoms. I expect Malibu Country to do pretty well on Fridays. The competition isn't very fierce. Reba has an instant and loyal fanbase already because of her singing and acting career. Reba aired on Friday nights on The WB/The CW and always did well with women in the 18-49 demo. I would expect it to gain even more viewers on a bigger network. If you're a fan of Reba or any of the other actors in the series, you will certainly want to check this one out and see how it develops. Visit Malibu Country on Friday nights on ABC at 8:30pm/7:30c.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.5/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 11/01/12

Discuss the show after you watch it on Friday, November 2 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Malibu Country Photo Gallery

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