Premiered March 4 at 10pm
It’s no coincidence that this series airs immediately after “Desperate Housewives.” This show is trying hard to recapture the steaminess and scandal that the 9pm slot holder once had and has lost since its racy premiere back in 2004. This time, however, they’re doing it in the name of the Lord. That is to say that the backdrop of a Christian community means that most of the jokes, particularly those from Kristin Chenoweth’s Carlene, are at the expense of religiosity. To some, that might be entertaining, and to others, it will most certainly be offensive. For our purposes, the quality of the show is paramount. Its initial setup, featuring Amanda’s Bernie Madoff-like husband plunging off a cliff while trying to enjoy too many pleasures at once, is somewhat original, and transplanting the family to Texas opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I am pleased to see Miriam Shor from “Swingtown” and the always wonderful Chenoweth in the cast, as well as Marisol Nichols as the one woman that might actually believe in Amanda’s goodness. The men aren’t terrible either, portrayed by David James Elliott of “JAG,” Mark Deklin, forever trapped in Texas after starring on last year’s short-lived “Lone Star,” and Brad Beyer from “Jericho.” Annie Potts makes for an entertaining grandmother, and Leslie Bibb isn’t asked to do much besides look flustered. The show is full of juicy developments and secrets, and that should serve it well going forward as a primetime soap opera. Amanda seeking her revenge on Carlene and then exclaiming “I kind of like this church stuff!” is exactly the kind of thing that should delight happy viewers and turn away others. Like its time slot predecessor “Pan Am,” it’s hardly essential viewing, but could be fun for a guilty pleasure.
How will it work as a series? As Amanda establishes herself in town, she’s likely to make more friends and enemies based on her attitude and behavior in the present day rather than in high school. With all the affairs and lying going on, this show is going to have more than its fill of material to draw from, and plenty of characters to utilize and showcase.
How long will it last? That’s unknown. The pilot didn’t do as well as “Pan Am” did back in the fall, and was about on par with “Desperate Housewives,” whose ratings are not what they used to be. This show does have an appeal, and I don’t think that ABC will want to give up on it or make a decision either way just yet.
Pilot grade: B