Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ABC Fall Pilot Review: Better With You - Premieres September 22; Houston Station to Feature Classic TV

Better With You

Better With You - Wednesdays 8:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8:30PM ET/PT

From Friends producer Shana Goldberg-Meehan comes a comedy about three different couples at various stages in their romantic relationships. There's a couple in a happy, long-term relationship and not married. Another couple is in a brand-new relationship and unexpectedly motivated to make a rush to the altar. Last but not least, there's a longtime married couple who've been together for 35 years but may have a new take on life.

Maddie, a lawyer, and Ben, a hotel manager, are a career-oriented couple who are head-over-heels in love. Both in their 30s, they've been together for nine years but never felt the need to get married. They know each other inside and out and are in a relationship marked by contentment and affection. They've thoroughly analyzed their commitment to each other and say they're happy with their "valid life choice," something they proclaim often -- and loudly.

Maddie's younger sister, Mia, is a free spirit and creator of a paperless web invitation company. She is in a very passionate seven-and-a-half-week-old relationship with Casey, a musician in an avant-garde metal band. Both in their 20s, they're smitten. Things are moving along at a fast rate for these two lovebirds who can't wait to discover the oh-so-many things they don't know about each other.

The girls' parents, Vicky and Joel, have been married for 35 years. Like Mia, they've adopted a carpe diem sort of philosophy. One reason for this new attitude is that they lost a good portion of their savings when the economy tanked. At this stage in their lives, they don't feel the need to take things too seriously.

When Mia invites Maddie and Ben to meet Casey, they think they're meeting just another in a long line of boyfriends. But Maddie soon realizes how serious the relationship is when Mia and Casey excitedly announce they're engaged. Surprised by the news, she feels like her little sister has leapfrogged over her -- jumping ahead of her in some major, life-changing way -- and sees the light it shines on her own life choices. In addition, Maddie worries that Mia is just plain moving too fast. But reluctant to be a negative voice, she resolves to be supportive and let her parents, the critical Vicky and Joel, be the ones to object when the time comes.

Mia is nervous about introducing Casey to her parents, who are hard to please or impress -- they once made a former boyfriend of hers cry. But when Mia tells them that she and Casey are getting married, Vicky and Joel greet the news with celebration, much to Mia's delight and Maddie's surprise. Evidently they'd given up on Maddie and Ben ever marrying. Now they seem all too eager to toast Mia and Casey's sudden union. Things get even more complicated for Maddie when it turns out that Casey has shared something with Ben but not with her, and then Ben accidentally blurts it out - that Mia is pregnant! Although Vicky and Joel are ecstatic to become grandparents, Maddie wonders why her sister kept this from her.

Maddie and Ben have been together a long time, and the relationship they have works, but they'll come to learn that there may be value in Mia and Casey's impulsiveness and spontaneity. And both sisters could surely learn something about relationships from their long-married parents. With three very different relationships intertwined in one family, is it free thinkers vs. over-thinkers, or will each couple begin to see things a little bit differently?


Cast Details:

* JoAnna Garcia as Mia
* Jennifer Finnigan as Maddie
* Josh Cooke as Ben
* Jake Lacy as Casey
* Kurt Fuller as Joel
* Debra Jo Rupp as Vicky

JoAnna Garcia's (Mia) recent memorable guest turns include her recurring role as Bree Buckley on the third season of the CW's Gossip Girl and her guest starring role as the girl who continues to get away from Josh Radnor on How I Met Your Mother. She also appeared in the ABC Family telefilm Revenge of the Bridesmaids, opposite Raven-Symone. In 2008 Garcia portrayed the lead character in the teen angst comedy, Privileged. Based on the book "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls," she starred as Megan Smith, a Yale graduate hired to tutor two wealthy teenage twin girls to ensure their entrance into an Ivy League college. Although Privileged only aired for one season, it gained a huge fan following and earned Garcia rave reviews. She also starred in the 2008 primetime series Welcome to The Captain, alongside Jeffrey Tambor, Chris Klein and Raquel Welch. Previously she dazzled audiences for six years on Reba as Reba's teenage daughter, and earned a Teen Choice Award nomination for Breakout Star. Earlier in her career, she starred as Fiona in the television series Clarissa Explains It All and from 1994-96 as Samantha in Are You Afraid of the Dark? In 1998 Garcia was cast in a recurring role on the acclaimed drama Party of Five. After graduating from high school, she briefly attended the University of Florida before heading to Los Angeles to further her acting career. Almost immediately she landed a key role opposite John Ritter in the TV movie Holy Joe. She also had a memorable role in 2000 on the series Freaks and Geeks. On the big screen she starred in two hit teen comedies in 2001, American Pie 2 and Not Another Teen Movie.

Jennifer Finnigan (Maddie) is an actress with great depth and comedic talent. Born and raised in Montreal, she started acting professionally at the age of 18, taking roles on various television shows on Nickelodeon and Fox Family in Montreal. Landing the role of Bridget Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful in 2001 spawned Finnigan's move to Los Angeles. That role earned her the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series for three consecutive years, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Additional television credits include the CBS drama Close to Home, in which she played Annabeth Chase, a young, aggressive prosecutor with a perfect conviction record. Prior to that she starred in the NBC comedy Committed (opposite Josh Cooke) and the NBC drama Crossing Jordan.

Josh Cooke (Ben) has quickly jumped onto Hollywood's radar screen. He landed back-to-back lead roles on two NBC shows, including Committed (which also had Jennifer Finnigan) and the half-hour comedy Four Kings, in which he starred opposite Seth Green for director James Burrows. In 2006 Cooke starred on ABC's Big Day for creators Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, playing a newlywed opposite Kurt Fuller, Marla Sokoloff and Wendie Malik. In 2007 he appeared in the one-hour drama Law Dogs for creator Barry Schindel, as a slick district attorney opposite Janeane Garofalo.

Jake Lacy (Casey) grew up in Vermont and graduated from The North Carolina School of the Arts in 2008. His recent work includes a Sundance Institute Theatre Project with director Mark Brokaw and a lead role in the 2010 Columbia thesis film, "C'est Moi."
Lacy has been seen on stage in Hartford Stage's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as Demetrius. He was a member of the Oberon Theater Ensemble and appeared in their production of "Much Ado About Nothing" as Conrad.

Kurt Fuller (Joel) is best known for his work in the films Wayne's World with Mike Myers and Anger Management with Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. Others will remember him as the wacky sheriff who likes to pose in Speedos in Scary Movie. Kurt is no stranger to ABC. His last regular role on a TV series was on ABC's Big Day, with Josh Cooke and Wendie Malick. He had previously been a regular on That's my Bush!, from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Last year he had recurring characters on both Supernatural and Psyche, and in the past has had arcs on ABC series Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal and Alias. Other TV appearances include HBO's Live from Baghdad with Michael Keaton, as well Glee, Ugly Betty, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Men of a Certain Age, The West Wing, In Justice, Eyes, Karen Sisco, Grey's Anatomy, House M.D, My Name is Earl, Monk and Drop Dead Diva.

Debra Jo Rupp (Vicky) has made over 300 television appearances, but is probably best known as Kitty Forman in the long running series That '70s Show. As a result, in her current role as Vicky in Better with You, she's excited to actually "live" in the 21st century and wear fashionable clothes. Other notable TV roles for Rupp include Seinfeld's booking agent, Katie, and Phoebe's sister-in-law on Friends. Sally Field directed her in HBO's acclaimed From the Earth to the Moon, and she was listed as "crowd member" when she actually got to go to the 2004 World Series and watch her Red Sox win. Rupp was most recently seen in the feature film She's Out of My League, playing Jay Baruchel's mom, Mrs. Kettner. Other film credits include Jackson, the award-winning short The Act, Kickin' it Old Skool with Jamie Kennedy, Clockwatchers with Toni Collette and Parker Posey, Spymate, Lucky Thirteen with Lauren Graham, Sgt. Bilko with Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd, and her first film ever, Big, with Tom Hanks. In addition her voice can be heard in the Emmy-winning Teacher's Pet with Nathan Lane (both cartoon and feature film), Garfield, Air Buddies and in various other projects with tiny animals.


Pilot Plot:

#1 "Pilot" (Airs September 22, 2010)
Mia invites Maddie and Ben to meet Casey, and they think they're meeting just another in a long line of boyfriends. But Maddie realizes how serious things actually are when Mia and Casey excitedly announce that they're engaged. Surprised by the news, Maddie feels like her little sister has leapfrogged over her -- jumping ahead of her in some major, life-changing way -- and sees the light it shines on her own life choices. But reluctant to be a negative voice, she resolves to be supportive and let her parents, the critical Vicky and Joel, be the ones to object when the time comes. But when Mia tells them that she and Casey are getting married, Vicky and Joel greet the news with celebration, much to Mia's delight and Maddie's surprise. Things get even more complicated for Maddie when it turns out that Casey has shared something with Ben but not with her, that Mia is pregnant! Maddie and Ben have been together a long time, and the relationship they have works, but they'll come to learn that there may be value in Mia and Casey's impulsiveness and spontaneity. And both sisters could surely learn something about relationships from their long-married parents.

Guest starring are Tiya Sircar as Reena and Jerrika Hinton as saleswoman.
"Pilot" was written by Shana Goldberg-Meehan and directed by James Burrows.


Analysis:

The pilot episode is very strong. It is a traditional half-hour comedy and we really need more of those as they repeat well and are better players in syndication. Anyway, there is nothing groundbreaking here but it is just plain funny. And that is the point of sitcoms, isn't it? The episode starts off with three different couples in three different cabs. It is startling the difference you see inside. The first couple (Mia & Casey) have only been together 7 1/2 weeks. The next couple (Maddie & Ben) have been together for 9 years. And the final couple (Vicky & Joel) have been together for 35 years. The twist? They are all related, like on Modern Family. Except here we find out they are related very early on rather than at the end of the pilot. Mia & Casey want to meet at a restaurant with Maddie & Ben so they can see Casey. Mia and Maddie are sisters and their parents are the older couple, Vicky & Joel. It is pretty easy to follow. Maddie and Ben have been together 9 years but are still not married.

Casey wants to propose to Mia and he tells her sister Maddie that, but there is a twist in the pilot. Mia is pregnant, but she didn't tell her sister Maddie. Though Casey DID tell Ben! Hilarity then comes after with that. It's good old fun! You need to watch to see how it plays out. All of the characters are pretty damn funny, especially Casey (Mia's fiance). He steals the pilot with laughs. Kurt Fuller, who plays the father (Joel), is always funny, as is his wife Vicky (played by Debra Jo Rupp). The cast have worked together in other sitcoms before. Jennifer Finnigan and Josh Cooke were both on NBC's Committed, while Cooke was with Kurt Fuller on ABC's Big Day. Both sitcoms didn't last, so maybe they just needed to find a sitcom together? I think this one will click.


Conclusion:

While this is nothing new, it is familiar. And familiarity always does well in the ratings because people want sitcoms like this. I think this is the best sitcom pilot of the fall season. So far we have reviewed Mike & Molly (Todd gave it a 4/5, a B), Raising Hope (Todd gave it a 4.5/5, an A) and Running Wilde (I gave it a 3.5/5, a C). To me (or "to I" as Casey would say), this is the best one so far. And as a preview S#*! My Day Says and Outsourced are not good, but stay tuned to see our reviews of those the next two days. Anyway, Better With You is perfectly placed in between The Middle and Modern Family, so it has a shot of finding an audience. The only question mark is can it succeed in an all-single camera comedy block? I don't see a reason why it wouldn't since the show is pretty similar to Modern Family with the extended family. This is a good mix of a romantic comedy and a family comedy. I haven't seen a sitcom tackle both of those in one show in a while. JoAnna Garcia is stunning in the show and plays the role of Mia very well. Be on the look out for newcomer Jake Lacy, who played Casey. He is outstanding in this and is a scene stealer. As the show's opening theme says, "you and I, we smile inside," you'll certainly be smiling or laughing after watching this pilot but on the outside not inside! Good 'ole fun and let's hope the episodes continue to be like this!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by Pavan on 09/21/10

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, September 22 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Better With You Photo Gallery

    Preview:






  • B&C reports tha Titan Broadcast Management's KAZH Houston will switch from Spanish-language programming to English starting next Monday (Sept. 27). The station will get new call letters, too. It will now be KUBE. KAZH currently airs Vasallo Vision Network programming. It claimed $2.1 million in 2009, according to BIA/Kelsey, which is 0.5% of DMA No. 10's market revenue.
    "There are an equal number of Spanish language and English stations in Houston," said Titan CEO Dan Sullivan. "However, the Houston English language television market revenues are [five times] the Spanish market revenues in Houston. With the same amount of competitors, we prefer to compete for the dollars in the bigger market."
    Sullivan said the Houston TV market looks strong. "The prospects for the success of KAZH as an English language independent station are very promising," he said. "The availability of quality classic television programming was also a driving force in this decision to change format." We will have the schedule of shows very soon, so stay tuned. If the schedule is out todayfor KUBE, check back right here in this spot...so come on back!


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    Greg hosts a meeting for the Westport Historical Guild to welcome back Stan (Timothy Omundson), and Katie’s homemade lasagna is a huge hit with the guys. After Stan makes several trips back for seconds and begins spending an inordinate amount of time at the Otto house, Chloe Brown Mueller (Jessica St. Clair) becomes convinced that Katie and Stan must be having an extra-marital affair. Meanwhile, Angela and Doris step in to help Oliver with his Teen Help Line.

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    Gabby Duran & the Unsittables - "Wesley and the Fischman" (Disney Channel, 9:00PM ET/PT)
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    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 14)

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