Friday, September 18, 2009

CBS Fall Pilot Review - Accidentally on Purpose - Premieres September 21; Our Emmy Picks for 61st Annual Event

Community

Accidentally on Purpose - Mondays 8:30PM ET/PT on CBS
Premieres Monday, September 21, 2009 at 8:30PM ET/PT

ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, based on the bestselling memoir by Mary F. Pols, is a comedy about a single woman, Billie, who finds herself "accidentally" pregnant after a one-night stand with a much younger guy, and decides to keep the baby...and the guy. A newspaper film critic, Billie is barely surviving a humiliating breakup with her charming boss, James, who's still trying to resume their relationship. Pregnant, after a brief fling with her "boy toy" Zack, Billie and Zack make an arrangement to live together platonically. Billie's party girl best friend Olivia, and Abby, her conventional, younger married sister, eagerly look forward to the new addition and offer their own brands of advice and encouragement. But when Zack and his freeloading friends, including Davis, start to turn her place into a frat house, Billie isn't sure if she's living with a boyfriend, a roommate, or if she just has another child to raise.

Cast Details:

* Jenna Elfman as Billie
* Jon Foster as Zazk
* Ashley Jensen as Olivia
* Lennon Parham as Abby
* Grant Show as James
* Nicolas Wright as Davis

Jenna Elfman (Billie) is best known for her role as Dharma in the hit series Dharma & Greg for which she garnered a Golden Globe Award, three Emmy Award nominations and two TV Guide Awards. Elfman's other television credits include Courting Alex, and guest appearances in the series Two and a Half Men, both on CBS, and guest-starring roles on My Name is Earl and Brothers & Sisters. Elfman also has an impressive feature film resume, starring opposite Ben Stiller and Edward Norton in Keeping the Faith and Ron Howard's Edtv opposite Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Recently, she starred opposite Elisha Cuthbert and Tim Allen in The Six Wives of Henry LeFay, and in the independent comedy Love Hurts opposite Richard E. Grant and Carrie-Anne Moss. Elfman also starred in the half-animated feature film Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Jon Foster's (Zack) 11 feature film credits include the leading role as Eddie in The Door in the Floor starring opposite Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger, Tenderness opposite Russell Crowe and The Informers opposite Billy Bob Thornton, among others. Foster's television credits include series regular roles in Windfall and Life As We Know It, and guest-starring roles in Judging Amy, on CBS and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He also starred in the television movie Murder in Greenwich.

Ashley Jensen (Olivia) appeared on the first three seasons of Ugly Betty playing Christina, the seamstress for the fictional "Mode" magazine and Betty's one true ally in the office. Jensen also recently starred in the BBC America series Eleventh Hour, where she co-starred opposite Patrick Stewart. Jensen's other television credits include Rebus, Clocking Off, City Central, Sweet Medicine, Two Thousand Acres of Sky, Outside the Rules and films such as A Cock and Bull Story and Topsy-Turvy. For two seasons Jensen starred opposite Ricky Gervais on the Golden Globe winning-series Extras, which originally aired on BBC 2 in the United Kingdom. Jensen reprised her role in the special Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, for which she was nominated for an Emmy (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie).

Lennon Parham (Abby) began her comedy career at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in N.Y. She graduated with a B.S. in Theatre from the University of Evansville in Indiana and taught French for two years with Teach for America at TL Weston High School in Greenville, Miss., before moving to N.Y. After graduating from the Second City New York program, she began attending classes at U.C.B. Eventually, she became involved in the comedy Improv shows Asssscat 3000 and Reuben Williams as well as becoming a member of the UCBT Touring Company. She has been teaching at the U.C.B. training center for two years, including a special class for improvising in character. Last year, she gained critical acclaim for her one-woman show based on a collection of comedic characters titled She Tried to be Normal.

Best known for his role as Jake Hanson on Melrose Place, Grant Show (James) recently starred in Swingtown on CBS. Show also had regular roles in Point Pleasant and the daytime drama Ryan's Hope, as well as recurring roles on Private Practice, Six Feet Under Dirt Strong Medicine and Beautiful People. Show has also starred in numerous television movies including The Natalee Holloway Story and Sex and the Single Mom. Among Show's theater credits are productions of On the Waterfront, The Glass Menagerie and the Off-Broadway hit Wit, with Judith Light.

Nicolas Wright (Davis) began his career on the stage as one of the founding members of the multi-award-winning theater company Gravy Bath Productions. In 2003, his portrayal of the title role in The Portrait of Dorian Gray at the Saidye Bronfman Centre earned him a nomination for Best Actor by the Montreal Critic's Circle. He continues his work on stage with the Montreal Based Improv/Sketch troupe Uncalled For, whose last show won several awards including 'Best of the Fest' at the Toronto Sketch Fest and the 'Just For Laughs Award' at the Montreal Fringe. Over the last few years, Wright has appeared in numerous feature films including The Greatest Game Ever Played and the thriller Whiteout. He has played leading roles in several award-winning Canadian productions including the animated series Delta State, Hatley High, which received the Best Director/Best Screenplay, Aspen Comedy Festival, Best Actor Nomination, ACTRA Awards (2006) and End of the Line (Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival).

Pilot Plot:

#1 "Pilot" (Airs September 21)
Billie, a newspaper film critic, just went through an ugly breakup with her boss, who still wishes to mend their relationship. After a fling with a much younger guy, Billie ends up pregnant and decides that she really wants to keep the baby -- and the guy she hooked up with.
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Written by Claudia Lonow
Guest Stars: Larry Wilmore as Dr. Roland, Pooch Hall as Ryan, Andrew Caldwell as Shane, Melinda Y. Cohen as Another Woman, Nadege Auguste as Beautiful Woman, Olympia Lettry as Cosmetic Counter Girl

Analysis:

Jenna Elfman returns for her second starring role on a CBS sitcom. Her short-lived Courting Alex aired from January-March 2006 for 8 episodes (12 produced). Despite some respectable ratings when it began on Monday nights, the show suffered when it was briefly moved to Wednesdays before it was pulled from the schedule with 4 episodes unaired. It was not picked up for a second season. CBS then inked her to a new development deal to create another comedy vehicle. She has spent the last four years making pilots trying to find the right show.

The pilot was pretty decent. It begins with Billie talking to Olivia at an office party. Then we see a flashback to a month earlier when she's at the Eiffel Tower with her boss and boyfriend, James. We later meet her sister Abby at a bar and Billie goes to talk to three younger guys. Billie decides to go home with Zack to his apartment and they have a one night stand. 5 weeks later, she takes a pregnancy test and discovers that she is pregnant. Zack takes her in his van to see the doctor. Billie later invites him to move in with her.

I think this show has the potential to be a slight upgrade over her previous show, Courting Alex. I've always been an Elfman fan. She's a gifted comedic actress who had some success on Dharma & Greg for 5 seasons. She recently announced that she is pregnant in real life with her second child. I guess she will start showing by the 3rd or 4th episode.

The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good but maybe lacks some sitcom experience. Jon Foster's only major sitcom experience was on the short-lived CBS sitcom Danny in 2001. He's pretty funny and likeable in the pilot, but we'll see how his chemistry with Elfman develops in future episodes. Ashley Jensen was excellent in Ugly Betty for 3 seasons. I would expect her role to expand a bit more from the pilot. I love her Scottish accent. Lennon Parham plays Billie's sister, Abby. We will probably be seeing her husband in future episodes. Zack's freeloading friends, led by Davis, have a few funny one-liners. Since the pilot mostly focused on Billie and Zack, I would expect their roles to expand.

San Francisco is the setting for the show. There are a couple of exterior shots of trolley cars. Billie plays a movie critic, so there are a number of movie references. She also has some movie posters, including one for An American Werewolf in London, in her apartment. The sets look a little cramped and cluttered, but I guess that was the look they were going for. The newspaper office set looks similar to the Winfred-Louder Department Store set used by The Drew Carey Show I remember they also used this stage for Courting Alex.
There were several songs in the pilot and the music score is composed by John Swihart. This is a multi-camera comedy that is filmed in front of a studio audience.

Conclusion:

This must be the year of the cougar with Accidentally on Purpose and Cougar Town. Will the second time be the charm for Jenna Elfman on CBS? They have been trying to find the right comedy vehicle for her for the last several years. Courting Alex had some decent ratings but was canceled after only 8 episodes aired. I think the pilot for Accidentally on Purpose is a slight upgrade over that. The pilot follows the basic premise of the movie Knocked Up but lacks the amount of funny scenes and lines. I just wonder which direction the show will take. Upcoming episode descriptions seem to indicate that Billie and Zack will be dating other people. What will they do once she has the baby at the end of the season and possibly marries Zack? This shows seems like it is set up to air for one season and then be done.

This show has a comfortable time slot between the established How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. It will be important to find an audience early because Rules of Engagement is waiting in the wings. If you are a fan of the adorable and witty Jenna Elfman or any of the other actors, the show is definitely worth checking out. It's hard to judge a show just by the pilot, which sets up the whole premise of the show and gives the necessary background details on the characters. It probably would be best to give this show a try for at least 3-4 episodes to see how it develops.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 09/18/09

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, September 21 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Accidentally on Purpose Photo Gallery


  • Preview:



    It's time for our annual Emmy picks!

    OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
    Weeds (Showtime)
    The Office (NBC)
    How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
    30 Rock (NBC)
    Entourage (HBO)
    Family Guy (Fox)
    Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
    OUR PICK: 30 Rock. It's the favorite, but I wish something else would win.

    OUTSTANDING LEAD COMEDY ACTOR
    Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (NBC)
    Tony Shalhoub, Monk (USA Network)
    Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men (CBS)
    Steve Carell, The Office (NBC)
    Jermaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
    Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
    OUR PICK: Jim Parsons. He is very deserving and his character of Sheldon is funny with a straight face! Sheldon never smiles or laughs!

    OUTSTANDING LEAD COMEDY ACTRESS
    Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central)
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Old Christine (CBS)
    Christina Applegate, Samantha Who? (ABC)
    Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds (Showtime)
    Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC)
    Toni Collette, United States of Tara (Showtime)
    OUR PICK: Tina Fey will win likely, but I would give it to Christina Applegate who was outstanding.

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR
    Kevin Dillion, Entourage (HBO)
    Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men (CBS)
    Rainn Wilson, The Office (NBC)
    Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
    Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock (NBC)
    Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock (NBC)
    OUR PICK: Neil Patrick Harris. He is hosting...so I bet he wins. If not maybe another 30 Rock winner.

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS
    Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty (ABC)
    Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies (ABC)
    Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock (NBC)
    Amy Poehler, SNL (NBC)
    Kristin Wiig, SNL (NBC)
    Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds (Showtime)
    OUR PICK: Vanessa Williams. She is hilarious as the evil character she plays.

    OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
    Lost (ABC)
    House (Fox)
    Damages (FX)
    Big Love (HBO)
    Mad Men (AMC)
    Dexter (Showtime)
    Breaking Bad (AMC)
    OUR PICK: Lost. An outstanding year for the fifth season! But I think Mad Men will take it.

    OUTSTANDING LEAD DRAMA ACTOR
    Hugh Laurie, House (Fox)
    Simon Baker, The Mentalist (CBS)
    Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC)
    Gabriel Bryne, In Treatment (HBO)
    Michael C. Hall, Dexter (Showtime)
    Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC)
    OUR PICK: Bryan Cranston. Could he repeat?

    OUTSTANDING LEAD DRAMA ACTRESS
    Glenn Close, Damages (FX)
    Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
    Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer (TNT)
    Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
    Holly Hunter, Saving Grace (TNT)
    Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (AMC)
    OUR PICK: Sally Field. Nora Walker is funny, real and America's mom!

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR
    Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal (ABC)
    William Shatner, Boston Legal (ABC)
    William Hurt, Damages (FX)
    John Slattery, Mad Men (AMC)
    Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad (AMC)
    Michael Emerson, Lost (ABC)
    OUR PICK: William Shatner. One last hurrah, maybe? If not Emerson, please!

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS
    Cherry Jones, 24 (Fox)
    Ross Byrne, Damages (FX)
    Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
    Hope Davis, In Treatment (HBO)
    Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
    Diane Wiest, In Treatment (HBO)
    OUR PICK: Chandra Wilson. Please give it to her!!


    View the full list of nominations. The 61st Annual Emmy Awards air this Sunday (September 20 at 8pm on CBS).


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    Lopez vs Lopez - "Lopez vs Let It Go" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
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