Maybe there are a few happy endings after all.
Eliza Coupe, who played the uptight and competitive Jane Kerkovich on the dearly departed ABC show Happy Endings, will star in a new comedy series on USA called Benched. In the new show, Coupe will play a successful corporate lawyer who has a mental breakdown after being passed up for an expected promotion. Coupe sounds like a perfect choice for the character, who sounds suspiciously similar to Jane, who too exuded control but was really only a hair away from a complete manic break.
The half-hour comedy will be written and produced by Michaela Watkins and Damon Jones, while John Enbom, co-creator of Party Down, will serve as showrunner. While it sometimes feels like cable TV is comprised of about 95 percent courtroom shows these days, the comedic talent behind Benched gives us hope that the show will add something fresh to the sameness of the doldrums that comprises most legal programs.
Coupe's previous show lies in the quiet graveyard of sitcoms that ended way too soon. The little comedy was a bright and shiny beacon of laughs that got shuffled in the confusing mish mash of ABC's scheduling. The frantic and quick-witted comedy gave the network a healthy injection of fun and unpredictability, but the show was sadly canceled after its third season, even after fans and other networks launched desperate campaigns to save it from termination.
Maybe Benched is USA's attempt to give fans a little solace after Happy Endings met its demise. The network obviously liked what Coupe brought to Happy Endings, and though that she had what it took to carry her own show. It won't be the show we wanted, but maybe it will be the next best thing.
Every year around this time, the networks go crazy announcing new shows and new faces as the hope of their impending fall seasons, but no major network has more hope or more riding on these announcements that the fourth place NBC. Just yesterday, they released video previews of their slew of new comedies and dramas that aim to take them in a new direction and we've got them all line up here with a little bit of context and few opinions.
We're looking for potential here, and while a few have some real promise, there are just as many that aren't so lucky.
Starring: Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn
Basics: Two recently single Hollywood agents commit the ultimate co-worker sin (yep, we're talking about sex) and have to deal with it in this workplace comedy. Of course, one sexual encounter undoubtedly leads to another and with that comes a big ol' mess.
Why: Despite the annoying presence of Natasha Leggero, this show rides on Hank Azaria, which is a pretty good person to weigh your hopes and dreams upon. The biggest hurdle I see at the outset is the chemistry between Helen (Hahn) and Alex (Azaria). Even accidental friend with benefits have some sort of sexual tension and since this is what the show is about, let's hope that chemistry is just undergoing a few growing pains. Also on the positive side is that the writer for the show, John Enbom, also wrote for Party Down, which didn't last but was an excellent short-lived workplace comedy.
Starring: Whitney Cummings, Chris D'Elia, Zoe-Lister Jones
Basics: Comedienne Whitney Cummings brings her perspective on love to the small screen in a sitcom that finds her character Whitney and her boyfriend Alex doing anything it takes to keep from becoming a typical boring couple, including refusing to get married and keeping it fresh with botched attempts to spice things up.
Why: Take a look at this clip and you'll see that while some folks may love Cummings as a standup comedian, she doesn't really hold her own when it comes to scripted television. That's a problem when the show is all about her. D'Elia and Jones try to offset Cummings' awkward delivery, but if the writing doesn't tighten up, it won't be enough.
Starring: David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby
Basics: Detective Nick Burkhardt finds that he can see things others can't, like a man turning into a violent troll or a pretty woman becoming a hag in an instant. It turns out he's one of a group of hunters called Grimms who must keep the real world safe from these fairy tale villains.
Potential: Not Bad
Why: If you watch these previews, you might note a sense of familiarity. That's because this series comes from the guys behind Buffy and Angel. While it won't be winning any Emmys, it looks to have the potential to capture those Buffy fans who've been dealing with the hole the long-running series left when it ended. Whether or not it succeeds in this endeavor lies on the show's brand new star, but let's hope there's more to him than what we see in these clips.
The Playboy Club
Starring: Eddie Cibrian, Amber Heard, David Krumholtz
Basics: Hoping to nab a piece of the 60s fad started by Mad Men, NBC introduces this salacious soap set in the original Playboy Club in Chicago, complete with sex, mob action, secret pasts and those classic bunny suits.
Why: Cibrian's Nick Dalton is no Don Draper and the intrigues are certainly low brow compared to the ups and downs on the leading 60s drama, Mad Men, but this show has enough sex appeal and intrigue (like when Heard's character kills a guy with her stiletto; yikes) to potentially ensnare a few viewers. Plus, Cibrian's own tabloid exploits coupled with the show's famed nudity clause are enough to draw at least a little curiosity.
Starring: Maria Bello
Basics: Maria Bello takes on a role originally held by Helen Mirren in the British version. She's a "tough-as-nails" detective determined to best the rest of the members of the department's boys club.
Potential: Not great
Why: Bello's not lacking the leading lady ability, but the show does rely heavily on a few tired stereotypes -- the hard-working woman who doesn't take shit from anyone, isn't appreciated by the men around her, but has that special, all-knowing womanly touch. The show as a whole looks like it wasn't just thrown together, but I just wish it didn't feel like Law and Order meshed with The Closer. Then again, with Kira Sedgwick finishing her last season, folks may be looking for another lady to fill that void.
Up All Night
Starring: Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph
Basics: Reagan and Chris (Applegate and Arnett) find themselves with an unexpected bundle of joy and a whole bunch of responsibilities they aren't ready for. Flipping the stereotypes, Reagan goes back to the office while Chris plays stay-at-home dad.
Why: Not only does the show have a killer trio at its center, but we get Will Arnett as a stay-at-home dad. How can that not be great? Plus, it looks like it might have a little more bite than Arnett's last sitcom attempt, Running Wilde, which was just a little too sweet.
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Wilmer Valderrama
Basics: After a terrible car accident, Detective Michael Britten wakes up in two separate realities: one in which his son survived the accident and he lost his wife, and the other the reverse. When he goes to sleep in one reality the other starts and vice versa, but eventually the cases he works on start to overlap in each reality and it begins to weigh on him.
Why: It's not exactly the Inception-style drama they've been promising, but it's certainly something the promises to be intriguing, enthralling and even eye-opening. Yes, Valderrama is a part of it, which may seem like a drawback, but Isaacs looks to carry this very original story well. It's only too bad we'll have to wait until midseason to see it.
Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
Starring: Laura Prepon, Chelsea Handler
Basics: Based on Chelsea Handler's life and best-selling novel, the show follows Laura Prepon's Chelsea Handler reincarnate, Chelsea Newman, as she attempts to get her life back together after getting a DUI. Chelsea works at the local bar with a few other fiery folks and spews the same jokes you'll find on Chelsea Lately.
Potential: Not Great
Why: Well, I say "not great" because from the looks of these previews, the show ain't great. It's just the same typical Handler jokes we've heard time and again, just delivered with a little less oomph from Prepon, who I want desperately to like. Sure, it's a nice shock to see Handler playing the super straight-laced sister to herself (yeah, that's who she plays), but that could get old really quick. Then again, the woman's fans are pretty rabid, so we may see this sitcom stick around.
Starring: Katherine McPhee, Debra Messing, Anjelica Houston, Jack Davenport
Basics: The show follows a young woman as she chases her dream of becoming a Broadway star and a songwriting duo as they put on a new production about Marilyn Monroe. Singing, dancing and a whole lotta real life problems ensue.
Why: It looks to be exactly what we've been promised: grown up Glee. Take out most of the camp, add a little more reality and two thumbs up from Steven Spielberg (who produces the show) and we just may have a hit...that is if Glee doesn't ruin the idea of musical theater for audiences with this awful second season.
Starring: Laura Parham, Jessica St. Clair
Basics:Two best friends ended up different sides of the country, but when one ends up getting divorced, she moves back to New York and in with her old friend. Their friendship gets back on track as the newly single Jessica tries to regain her singlehood. It's just not great news for Lennon's live-in boyfriend who starts to feel the pressure of this house guest's constant presence.
Potential: Not bad
Why: Unlike the other lady-friendly comedies NBC has on deck -- Are You There Vodka? and Whitney -- this show actually feels genuine and modern in a way that other two are attempting and failing. The only worry I have here is that it won't catch on with viewers, but I think it certainly has potential to be a cute show.
Sure, he regularly voices characters on The Simpsons, but it's been a while since Hank Azaria actually showed his face on television. In fact, it's been since 2006 when he was starring on the now defunct Showtime comedy, Huff. Now we'll have the chance to see a whole lot more of the funny man because NBC has nabbed him for their single-camera comedy, Free Agents. The show plays on the mockumentary style of The Office and comes from Party Down's John Enbom.
Azaria will star as one half of the Hollywood talent agency duo as they navigate Tinsel Town and their own screwed up, recently single lives. We've got Azaria slated as Alex, but his on-screen buddy Helen has yet to be cast. NBC was eying Minnie Driver for the role, but she's been picked up for another fall pilot on CBS and thus the search goes on. Personally, I think Azaria is a clutch choice for the ailing network. They've quickly cemented themselves as a home for great comedy (hello Thursdays -- minus Outsourced) and Azaria's presence can only help to stoke that fire.
Update: Amanda Peet is set for Bent. This will be her first return to television since her role on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Earlier: Now that NBC has picked up all these comedies, they need some stars. Enter Minnie Driver and Amanda Peet who are in talks to return to television with a few comedy pilots.
Peet is looking at a single-camera comedy called Bent, which comes to us from Tad Quill from Scrubs. The show would have Peet playing an uptight, divorced housewife who hires a hunky, laid-back, surfer-dude handyman and tries her darndest to resist his...er...charms. Sounds just about right for Peet, who's played that role time and again with perfect pitch, now how about that hunk?
As for Driver, she's looking at a pilot written by John Enbom who you may recognize as one of the writers from the unjustly-canceled workplace comedy, Party Down, and the cult hit, Veronica Mars. (Yay!) Free Agents looks kind of Office-y. It's a mocumentary style workplace comedy adapted from a British show. Instead of a boring old paper company, Agents takes place in a Hollywood talent agency and centers on two heart-broken co-workers (one's divorced, one just broke up with their fiance). This is Ari Gold territory, people. She's still in talks, but I'd like to see Driver return to television. She was interesting on her short-lived small screen venture, The Riches, despite her awkward American accent but would she really need to be American for this series? Come on, there are probably a ton of English imports at Hollywood talent agencies. Done.
Source: Hollywood Reporter, Deadline
Thursday nights aside, NBC's scripted programming is hurting. The network is not bringing in the ratings it should and in some cases has become a critical laughing stock. Hopefully that’s about to change as the (former) peacock has picked up four new scripts and given them a green light.
First up (and the one we’re most excited for) is called REM from Lone Star creator Kyle Killen. If you were smart enough to have watched Lone Star early last season, you would have seen a smart, dense and well thought-out story about a man living double lives. Now Killen is basically doing that again for NBC but with a supernatural twist. To put it in buzzwords - it’s Inception style. It follows a cop who wakes up from an accident to discover he’s living in two different realities. Maybe one reality will have an NBC with a hit hour long drama! Thanks, Jay.
The second is an enigma. It’s from a Party Down co-creator John Enbom but is also based on a British show. However, it is single camera, but then again it's a basic love story show, not to mention it has a pun title (Free Agents). No, seriously. It couldn’t be any simpler. Two advertising executives are on the rebound Will they fall for each other? Blegh. The only thing that sounds remotely interesting is that one of the people is on the rebound because their fiance died. Not to sound morbid, but it does make for compelling television.
Up next we have LoveLives from Family Guy executive producer Chris Sheridan. It's a multi-camera program following another couple that decides to test the waters of an open relationship at the encouragement of their friends and family. The only part that sounds interesting here is the family and friends encouraging the wandering couple, because after all there has been a strange and huge influx of people trying out open relationships in the movies lately. As the AV Club points out, start hoarding the condoms people.
Finally we have a comedy about a young doctor joining his family’s medical practice where he winds up dealing with his family more than he does patients. Sounds decent. Medical comedies tend to work well for me at least (namely Scrubs and Children’s Hospital off the top of my head). This one comes from Dan Goor and remains untitled. Considering Goor writes for Parks and Recreation, this one might just be a hit.