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Review: ‘The Starter Wife’

[IMG:L]More than a year removed from its successful run as a miniseries, USA’s The Starter Wife is back for a not-so-mini 10-episode season (premiering Oct. 10 at 9/8c) that’s sure to please fans of the popular novel on which it is based…again. 

Debra Messing (an Emmy nominee for Starter Wife and winner for Will & Grace) returns as Molly Kagan, the ex-wife of self-obsessed Hollywood power producer Kenny Kagan (David Alan Basche).

Simply put, she’s struggling with juggling: Molly must balance a dating life (despite recently having sworn off men), single motherhood for her 7-year-old daughter (Brielle Barbusca), finding a new career (since Kenny provides very little in the way of child support)…and the list goes on.

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Luckily, Molly has two loyal and supportive friends, seemingly the only people in L.A. who haven’t bailed on her since the divorce. Joan (Judy Davis) and Rodney (Chris Diamantopoulos), however, are also trying to figure life out for themselves–especially Joan, a recovering alcoholic who accepts a menial job at a celeb rehab in order to help quell her desire to drink.

The premiere mainly introduces (or reintroduces) us to Molly and her many plights, which she often tries to brush off with grace, wit, and shoe-shopping. In fact, if Carrie Bradshaw had grown up on the West Coast (and married/divorced a movie mogul), she might’ve become Molly Kagan. And much like the Sex and the City protagonist, Molly is a relatable character not because of her humor in the face of life dilemmas but because of the life dilemmas she’s facing.

Of course, it never hurts to have an actress of Messing’s caliber playing such a character. For a while it seemed like Messing, although superb as Grace on Will & Grace, might be a one-note kind of actress. She really disproves that theory with Starter Wife (just as she did during the miniseries). Molly is an all-over-the-place real-world-ish mom, and her style of humor could not be more different from that of Grace. Messing truly almost makes you forget about her iconic role on NBC’s hit sitcom with such a dazzling performance as Molly.

Speaking of dazzling performances, longtime actress Davis–who has already won an Emmy for her Starter Wife performance–actually tends to steal scenes from Messing any time they appear together. Davis goes the extra mile to lend a vibrant voice to a character that might otherwise come across as clichéd, not flawed.

All in all, this Starter Wife, now with a chance to fully spread its wings, is charming, relaxed and highly watchable in a way that doesn’t really exist on network TV. Even viewers who don’t think they fit the demographic bill might find themselves oddly intrigued upon tuning in.

Grade: B+

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