Miss Guided, on track—Jezebel James, total shame

ABC continues it’s goal of becoming the new “Fox” in the sense that they have been moving further away from Friday night sitcoms such as Family Matters or Full House, and have been instead experimenting with odd, filmic comedies such as “Sons & Daughters,” and “Carpoolers.” Both shows were misfires, but (in my opinion) had more in common with “Arrested Development” than with Urkel.

Their latest attempt is “Miss Guided,” starring Judy Greer and SNL’s brilliant Chris Parnell..

BEFORE YOU ROLL YOUR EYES AT THIS TRAILER (which you probably will)….


This trailer put me off at first, thanks to it’s trite use of Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” and a general distaste for Ashton Kutcher (who, actually, has a fairly decent track record.)

Anyway, I set the tivo for most any comedy that is NOT a sitcom and seems influenced by shows like “arrested” or “the office.” Some are lame knockoffs “10 Items or Less,” some are quite funny “Dog Bites Man,” and some are kind of just… there. “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.”

“Miss Guided,” starts out as a shrill and in-your-face offering that is trying too hard to be Ferris Bueller, but soon finds a rhythm, due mostly to some charm from it’s cast of characters and the direction of Todd Holland, one of my favorite television directors (Larry Sanders, Wonderfalls, Eerie Indiana, dozens more)

Directors are the bottom in the totem pole when it comes to commercial television – but a good show let’s a director put his own stamp on things. And while Holland (in some places) relies a little hard on that swish-pan “Malcom in the Middle” style pacing, the rhythm of his shots and sequences paces nicely with the rhythm of the actors delivery and ultimately this pilot comes across as a pretty decent symphony.

It’s a pilot – it suffers from those trappings. But, there’s potential here and I will surely watch for another episode. It’s no “Arrested,” but it definitely exceeded expectations and with so few television comedies to pick from, is my vote for best newcomer.

Judy Greer has always been quirky and charming, and has had standout supporting roles in many movies and series, including “Arrested.” It’s nice to see her as the lead character for once – we just have to hope that her playing a guidance councilor who is just as awkward and insecure as her students leans more toward charming than annoying. So far, while walking a tightrope in this regard, I found myself liking her very much.

It’s hard to play this kind of character and keep them human instead of cartoony, and to make them quirky but not annoying. Lots of people hate Woody Allen because they find him weak and sniveling, though of course many of us find him endearing and vulnerable. It’s a rough balance.

An example of this kind of character NOT working — is Parker Posey, clearly a capable and strong actress, who does a turn as the lead of the new Fox comedy, “The Return of Jezebel James,” which is from the creators of “Gilmore Girls.”

“Jezebel” depicts Posey as a children’s book editor who was recently left by her boyfriend and found to be incapable of having children. In a sitcom twist, she has her estranged younger sister move in with her to be birth-mother to her child. It’s kind of an icky way to create and odd couple, and attempt to develop a sisterly/motherly/barb-infused dynamic which is what made “Gilmore Girls” so charming.

But fox has laden the series with an oddly inappropriate LAUGH TRACK, and tried to turn this dramedy into a flat-out sitcom. Worse, Posey (who is an actress I admire) is given the part of a shrill, verbose, and cold woman — who we find difficult to like, despite her attempts to speak only with a vocabulary of clever quips for every response.

Fox seems to be de-volving whereas ABC is trying desperately to break new ground. Both networks are on rocky ground with these comedies, but if you ask me, it’s MISS GUIDED that hits closer to the mark.

(heh, a pun – like a real critic!)
Junky

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No Responses to “Miss Guided, on track—Jezebel James, total shame”

  1. Eros Welker says:

    Does she flash her students?  Jezebel James looked real bad from promos I saw, not that Miss Guided seemed any better.  It’s very very rare that I find myself attached to a TV comedy.  I think NBC’s The Office is the last one I really enjoyed and watch regularly.

    But I miss Dog Bites Man, that was fun.  Beekin’ & Eggs!

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