The All-Pilot Project

The All-Pilot Project: The Ex-List & Kath and Kim (Oct 22)

After a little break, the All-Pilot Project is back with Ladies’ Night! That’s right, we’ve got two series with women in lead roles. So settle down and remember, ladies drink for half price!

The Ex List Friday 9 PM, CBS

The Premise: Based on an Israeli TV series (The second such series in a year – Israel is the new England. But not New England.), The Ex List tells the story of Bella Bloom, who learns from a fortuneteller that her one true love is somebody with whom she’s already had a relationship, and she has one year to find them or be alone forever. Fearless prediction: Season Two will begin with the words “My bad. You actually have two years to find your true love.”

The Personnel: Elizabeth Reaser, best known as an amnesia patient on Grey’s Anatomy and best known to me as Stace from a Season Two episode of The Sopranos. Diane Ruggiero of Veronica Mars is the showrunner and head writer, but it’s been reported that she’s already left the series.

The Poop: Right off, I’m going to say this wasn’t bad. And that’s despite the dreadful premise. Seriously, a prediction from a psychic that influences your dating life? That’s the plot of an episode, not the basis for a series. You could get a good episode of 30 Rock out of that. Maybe a Leela B-story for Futurama. But basing 22 episodes on that? That’s stretching it a bit thin.

And it’s not helped by the appearance of Eric Balfour as the ex in the first episode. You may know him from being creepy and greasy on 24 and Six Feet Under. I have no idea how he got to be so ubiquitous, but he’s hard to look at and not much of an actor. He has a funny role, as a former emo musician turned metalhead, but a more expressive performer would have worked better in the role.

The writing is fairly sharp – although a subplot about Bella’s friend Vivian and her vaginal maintenance might have been better saved for a future episode. I feel like we need to know the characters better before they discuss inexpertly applied merkins. There were some good jokes but it didn’t quite land right. This is a plot I want from people that I know and like – in a pilot, it’s just strangers oversharing.

I’m not a huge fan of romantic comedies, largely because I’m, you know, dead inside. And the premise of the series pretty much dictates that every episode is going to be about Bella looking for love with men from her past. It’s a very limiting concept for a series, especially with the ticking clock. Besides, I can’t really buy into the idea that somebody would take a prediction from a fortune teller that seriously. I’m willing to suspend disbelief, but here we have a character reacting in a way that’s almost impossible to justify, unless we establish that Bella is actually crazy. Hanging the premise on that particular coat rack may prove to be unworkable in the long run.

The Ex List has a good, if unmemorable, cast. Bella seems to have too many friends in the regular cast. Her sister and best friend don’t have distinct personalities, and fulfill pretty much the same plot function. (Somebody with whom Bella discusses relationship woes.) Each of them has a boyfriend / husband, who don’t seem to serve any purpose. Considering that the show demands a Boyfriend of the Week complete with backstory flashbacks, there’s not going to be much room to develop four supporting characters, plus Bella’s ex-husband and the fortuneteller. I suspect they’ll discover this soon enough.

The Prognosis: Flawed but ultimately fairly enjoyable. (It remains to be seen how much of what I liked hinged on Ruggiero, though.) I have no interest in a “relationship of the week” show, but that doesn’t make it bad. The flimsiness of the premise certainly impacts my enjoyment of the series, but your mileage may vary. It’s pretty smart scheduling to have it on a Friday night, when the primary audience consists of lonely people, but despite being one of those people, I just can’t embrace it.

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