Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pilot Review: Malibu Country

Malibu Country (ABC)
Premiered November 2 at 8:30pm

I never watched a full episode of “Reba.” I could tell from the few moments I had seen that it wasn’t a show for me. It was, however, a good fit for its networks, first the WB and then the CW, and for the year it started, 2001. It does not, however, make much sense as a new program in 2012, airing on ABC, a network that has successfully mastered series like “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” “Suburgatory,” “Apartment 23,” and “Happy Endings,” which don’t have laugh tracks and make up the majority of ABC’s comedy lineup. This show is wisely paired with the only working exception, “Last Man Standing,” another attempt to bring back a once-popular TV star from a former decade that has proven pretty successful. While that show should hardly be lauded for its creative energy or strong writing, this series is far more lamentable. Its premise is extraordinarily familiar and thin, taking its Nashville characters out of their hometown (where a much better ABC series is now set) to plant them in the very different Malibu, which hardly seems like the place for Reba to restart her music career. A gay neighbor who just practices kissing girls is nothing fresh, and this is hardly a fitting role for TV comedienne Sara Rue. Worst of all is the fate of Lily Tomlin, who has the part written specifically for older actresses famous for far better work, forever doomed to usually irrelevant one-liners. Jai Rodriguez’s flamboyant assistant Geoffrey seals the deal, cementing the fact that this show has not one creative leg on which to stand. There’s nothing about it worth watching.

How will it work as a series? Now that Reba is settling into Malibu, she’s going to find that it’s not easy to achieve her dreams even if she likes buying cookies and storming into record labels. The exploits of her children and her nutty mother will likely be explored in agonizing detail as well, and it shouldn’t be long before Jeffrey Nordling’s no-good husband saunters back into town to shake things up. We’ve seen it all before.
How long will it last? Sadly, probably a while. Earning the best ratings in the 8:30pm Friday timeslot that ABC has seen in five years should guarantee it a bright future, at least for the time being, and working well with “Last Man Standing” is going to make it irreplaceable as well. While ABC won’t be in any rush to renew it, it shouldn’t be long before it happens.

Pilot grade: F

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