It's called Just Seen It, and it isn't your mother's review show (or mine, for that matter), but a fun and fast-paced hangout where working industry professionals review the latest in film and television. Think young, modern, multi-cultural Siskel & Ebert (with a deep bow to the masters, whom we all grew up on and who are very much in the room) delivered by a rotating panel of producers, directors, writers, actors, and other acclaimed guest reviewers.
Haven't seen it? Check it out now. This week served up a killer group of segments, including this review of Fox's intriguing Sleepy Hollow.
A major hat tip is in order. David Freedman, creator and showrunner, took the concept from YouTube series to national PBS show (no small feat) and formed a tribe of film nerds whose obsession with this stuff is infectious and inspiring and basically awesome to vibe with in a warm and friendly coffeehouse format. It was the talented Liz Manashil (burgeoning auteure of HuffPost and Kickstarter fame) who invited me into this special family, and this week I was honored to chime in on two of ABC's fall pilots, Lucky 7 and Trophy Wife.
First, Lucky. In the tradition of ensemble-cast dramas comes this gritty look at a group of hard-up auto-shop employees who finally win the lottery together. The otherwise prosaic cast does deliver some standout performances, though they struggle to bring a rather 2-d set of characters to life for me. For others, including my homegirl Brenna, they were exactly the people she wanted to see in a show about everyday folk hitting it big. Good point. I love watching people hustle for cash as much as the next guy, but I need those people to be interesting, compelling, and hungry for said cash in new and surprising ways. Never quite felt that, as much as I love the extraordinary team that adapted the show from its British incarnation, The Syndicate. This is for sure: The psychology of the lottery is fascinating territory for a one-hour drama to explore. I'm happy I saw the pilot. Sean Wright, who rounded out the panel, will kick back and stream it from home.
Onto a different jackpot: The sugardaddy. Which is what the terrific Malin Akerman scores in Trophy Wife, a half-hour comedy about a party girl who becomes a third wife and mother of three when she marries an older man played by Bradley Whitford, who more often than not looks physically hungry for a West Wing script. But a big high-five to the awesome creators, Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, who bring their off-kilter somethingness to this family comedy, weaving bizarre but believable characters through funny and (usually) realistic plotlines (someone's gotta buy the replacement hamster, even if Akerman doesn't have to drink the vodka her step-daughter sneaks into school, but totally does because she's the un-trophy wife). Director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) brings his strong comedic instincts to the pilot and delivers a solid single-cam comedy with delightfully un-sitcom-y performances. Even when the pilot dips into the absurd, it resounds with heart; and Akerman nails the party girl/solid mother/likable lady trifecta. But can't she and Whitford love each other more? They don't get to hang much in the pilot, and that's what we need to root for them. Overall, though, there's lots of room for Akerman's trophy wife to discover whether she'll live up to--or disappoint--her new title. Either way, it should be fun to watch. Or stream at your leisure, as I plan to do.
If you're hungry for more (who can blame you?), here's the clip of our review of the two pilots on Just Seen It, available online and airing on KLCS at 9:30 PM and PBS OC at 7 PM every Wednesday.
(n.b. Readers who are looking for the trophy-wife playbook or want to go halfsies on a lottery ticket -- comment below.)