[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]
Show:“Trophy Wife” (ABC)
The Pitch: “Modern-er Family”
Quick Response:I like the shape of “Trophy Wife.” And no, I’m not just referring to star Malin Akerman. What I like is the structural integrity of the premise, even if the title is probably a misleading mistake. I don’t think the show looks at Akerman’s character as a trophy wife and most of the characters don’t view her that way. She’s a slightly wide-eyed young woman who finds herself plunged into an established an atypical family unit and has to find a way to negotiate her position within that unit. It’s just a different way to approach a blended family and the title doesn’t really capture that Akerman’s Kate and Bradley Whitford’s Pete have a very natural and warm chemistry together and while we haven’t really gotten to the meat of their attraction, it’s implied. But there’s also a warmth between Pete and his two previous ex-wives (Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden) and also with his two teenage kids and his adopted son. So it’s a family, but it’s a weird family, especially when you include Kate’s buddy Meg (Natalie Morales). What I enjoyed about the pilot is how quickly and cleanly it establishes its eight main characters and, more impressively, how quickly it finds the dynamics between the different disparate pieces. It helps that this is a great vehicle for the frequently appealing — but only occasionally properly utilized — Akerman, who shows myriad sides to Kate in a short period, playing off familiar “adorakable” tropes — she gets drunk, she falls down, she says things that would embarrass anybody but her — but also giving us many reasons to respect and root for Kate all in 22 minutes. Akerman’s bubbly energy has instantly great foils in Harden’s brilliant iciness and Watkins’ loopy mania and also in the sarcastic preppiness that Whitford plays as well as anyone. ABC had a full shelf of family comedies this year, which means lots of kids and I think Gianna LePera, Ryan Scott Lee and Albert Tsai are solid, but I need a bit more time with them. Tsai in particular seems to sometimes be overacting, but there were a couple times I sensed his line deliveries were actually boosting sluggish punchlines. And I really hope they pay close attention to Morales, because she’s a lively treat here, but I can just as easily imagine her becoming increasingly overlooked as the show progresses. Knowing that it’s hard for a comedy pilot to hit the ground with hilarity, I won’t criticize “Trophy Wife” harshly for making me consistently smile, but not laugh.
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonably high. I really like Malin Akerman and will happily watch her on a weekly basis. I think this pilot also suggests writers Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins have a good sense of what Harden, Watkins and Whitford do well. I don’t love where ABC has put “Trophy Wife.” It’s a much better match with “Modern Family” than “Super Fun Night.” “The Goldbergs” also seems like a better match with “Modern Family” than “Super Fun Night.” In fact… Seriously, ABC. Give some thought to not airing “Super Fun Night” on Wednesdays at 9:30.