Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pilot Review: Benched

Benched (USA)
Premiered October 28 at 10:30pm

I’m not a “Happy Endings” devotee. I didn’t particularly like the pilot when it aired, and while I’m sure that I would have come to at least mildly enjoy the show had I stuck with it, I wasn’t compelled to watch long enough for that to happen. As a result, I’m not automatically excited by a cast member starring in a new show (see “Marry Me” for another current instance). I know Eliza Coupe from her stint on the final incarnation of “Scrubs,” where I found her demeanor to be somewhat entertaining and appropriately relegated to the supporting cast. Now, she’s been given a plum lead role in which she gets to have a familiar meltdown and then start back down at the bottom. This is just the latest comedy to use a particular profession, in this case law, to recycle the same jokes about trying to adjust to a new status and realize that the glory days are long in the past. Joining Coupe at the public defender’s office are some familiar TV faces used to ensemble work like Oscar Nunez from “The Office” and Jack McGee from “Rescue Me,” but I’m more interested in someone who I enjoyed greatly when he was the star of the short-lived “Better Off Ted,” Jay Harrington. He’s charismatic wherever he is, but I don’t love his character here. This show as a whole feels hopelessly unoriginal, and while Nina’s strong personality is supposed to be endearing and help the show seem fresh, it just doesn’t. This is a run-of-the-mill workplace comedy dressed up as something it isn’t.

How will it work as a series? Nina’s old life isn’t going where, as evidenced by the many exaggerated Elton John references and Trent’s omnipresence in the courtroom, and that will make it equally difficult for her to move on and triumphant when she in fact does. It’s a typical story of starting over, and after this beginning, there’s nowhere to go but up.
How long will it last? The Hollywood Reporter notes that this pilot’s ratings were slightly better than that of “Playing House,” a statistic that indicates little since that show has yet to be renewed or cancelled. I think this one could be a success for the network, a good companion to “Sirens,” and a likely choice for a renewal.

Pilot grade: C-

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