Sisterhood of the Useless Degrees

Samantha Who? Is Sooo Much Better Than Miss Guided; RIP, Jezebel James.

Posted on: March 26, 2008

I spent about two hours today watching three episodes of ABC’s midseason series, Miss Guided. I don’t know why. It stars Judy Greer, and I’ve never liked Judy Greer in anything I’ve watched her in, but whatever; I watched it.

Here’s my hypothesis: this show’s getting canceled after eight eps, if that. It reminds me of those Disney sitcoms, circa Lizzie McGuire (not those unwatchable, brain-cell-deadening ones they’ve got now [The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, I’m looking at you.], but the ones you could kind of get through, if you were super-bored, and emerge unscathed and slightly amused)…. Where was I? Oh, okay, yeah: this show sucks. It’s like a bad knock-off of Never Been Kissed (if such a thing can even be imagined), without the plucky, cutesy, do-no-harm appeal of Drew Barrymore.

First off, Judy Greer’s character, Becky Freely, isn’t likable enough to carry a show (and, really, isn’t that the story of Greer’s entire career?). She’s way too self-congratulatory; she’s kind of a flake; and she’s so self-absorbed she can’t possibly be as good a guidance counselor as she thinks she is.

It isn’t entirely Greer’s fault. The bulk of the blame resides with the writers. They’ve managed to make all the characters suck. Becky’s love interest, Tom or Tim or something with a T, is a Spanish teacher whose ineptitude at speaking Spanish threatens his job on a regular basis (and he’s not even cute enough for that to make him endearing). Brooke Burns, whose face has bothered me for years now, is the ex-prom queen-turned-teacher who’s resurfaced at the school to reprise her childhood role of making Becky feel bad about herself (and to illustrate why blondes should never agree to dye their hair near-black for roles). The principal is this guy—and his dry line-delivery is no funnier here than it’s been in anything else he’s appeared in. Then there’s this extraneous vice principal character whose running gag is that he’s probably closeted.This show reminds me of Pepper Dennis (another Brooke Burns co-starring clunker)… only I didn’t hate Pepper this much.

By contrast, ABC trotted out Samantha Who? in the fall–probably because they knew it was the better show and had a much better chance of clearing a full season. It stars Christina Applegate as this formerly-wretched litigator who, with the help of amnesia, is in the process of reforming and redeeming her image. See how you can take a somewhat unlikable character and make her really, really awesome? First off, get Christina Applegate instead of Judy Greer. Second, humble the character and give her a few healthy doses of self-awareness. Also, put her in reeeally cute clothes:

Know what also helps? A supporting cast where the random black guy with dry line delivery is actually kind of cool (it’s Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager); the love interest is Barry “Matt Camden” Watson (who’s still hot, in spite of himself); and two fun, naturally brunette female friends whose personalities are defined by more than man-chasing and oneupsmanship (one of which is Sookie from Gilmore Girls and the other is Jennifer Esposito).

It’s simple, really.

Samantha Who? returns on April 7. I really don’t care when Miss Guided airs–especially now that I don’t have Lost to motivate me to watch ABC on Thursdays.

Moving on…

I read today that The Return of Jezebel James was canceled. Can’t say I didn’t see it coming (Entertainment Weekly gave the pilot a C-.), but I also can’t say I’m not disappointed. Granted, I feel the same way about Parker Posey as I feel about Judy Greer (times ten), and I only watched one episode (the last one to air), but I’ve been a Palladino-supporter since the early days of Gilmore Girls, and I read about this show last spring, with great interest.When I finally watched it and heard that horrendous laugh track for the first time, I knew the death knell was near. Jezebel James is just one of the projects where the premise is the whole show. And, as all avid TV-watchers know, that just doesn’t fly. Successful, infertile older sister hires younger, slacker sister to be her surrogate? Where does a writer go from there–especially after one of the few things that could’ve been drawn out for comedic or dramatic effect (the younger sister’s concession to carry the kid) is resolved in the pilot? The show would’ve only worked for an on-screen nine-month period (unless the estranged sisters decided along the way to co-parent, in which case it’d just get weird).

It was nice to see Lauren Ambrose with another gig, though. Too bad it had to end so suddenly. She was doing a decent job. And Parker didn’t suck as much as she usually does (but she was still shrill and manic in that way I hate so much). I could’ve watched at least four more episodes before I tired of the show. But Fox is notorious for pulling shows when the pilot under-performs. Sigh. I hate Fox. But that’s another topic for another day.

1 Response to "Samantha Who? Is Sooo Much Better Than Miss Guided; RIP, Jezebel James."

I really love the series Samantha Who because it is so damn funny. ‘

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