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ABC 2010 Fall Comedies: Charming and Quirky

ABC announced their new fall shows today, and unfortunately I was unable to screen pilots in full because ABC does not consider this little "dog and pony show" blog to be legit enough for access to their media site. I did, however, catch a few clips from (most of) the shows and have been able to formulate my five cents about them from those brief moments...for these few shows. ABC hit it so far out of the park last year with comedies like Modern Family and (even though it's not really my cup of tea) Cougar Town, they stuck to what they had and only decided to add a few to compliment.

Better Together, which was previously titled Leapfrog during pilot season, centers on three couples: one that has been dating for nine years, another that has been dating for seven weeks, and the parents of two halves of each of the previous relationships who have been married for thirty-five years. Each has a very different outlook on love, life, and commitment, and each will surely butt heads with the others, as they are intertwined into one, ever-changing family, guaranteeing that it will be free-thinkers versus over-thinkers at times. Veteran actors Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp play the parents, with Jennifer Finnigan and JoAnna Garcia as the daughters. Their other halves are Josh Cooke and Jake Lacy, and the pilot was directed by sitcom genius James Burrows. Last season, ABC revolutionized half-hour comedy with single-camera gems like Modern Family, but with this one, it is bringing the medium back to its roots and showing that "shot live in front of a studio audience" doesn't have to rely on canned laughter, spit-takes, and prat falls. This show has all of the charm, heart, and wit of Modern Family, just within the confines of a traditional home setting.

See a clip of Better Together here.

Happy Endings is a mid-season comedy about a couple who splits up and has to divy up their friends. For years, perfect couple Dave (Zachary Knighton) and Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) drew their friends in and held them together, but now every event and party is a negotiation, and their group of support, like Damon Wayans Jr and Casey Wilson, are bargaining chips. Of course other expected complications-- like one "just friends" member who has been secretly harboring feelings for another-- pop up as plot points. If this show continues down the road of the expected, it will surely fizzle out quickly, but the quirky young cast, as well as the fact that the premise is relatable to any twenty-something with a somewhat incestuous core group of friends, bodes well for it, at least in the beginning.

See a clip of Happy Endings here.

Mid-season will also bring Mr. Sunshine, Matthew Perry's newest comedy, in which he starts as a self-involved second-rate sports arena manager who has just turned forty and been forced to re-evaluate his life. His mid-life crisis, so to speak, is heightened by the colorful cast of characters that surround him in his work and personal life, including Allison Janney as his arena owner boss, Andrea Anders as the "mixes business with pleasure" marketing director with whom Perry's character has been friends with benefits, James Lesure as a former basketball player who is as happy as Perry's character is not, and a hapless operation crew undoubtedly there to throw a monkey wrench into his plans. The cast-- and the idea behind the show-- seems to jive with the quirkier side to the network's comedies. Last season, they were split into newer, outside of the box thinking jaunts and the typical, old-fashioned, middle-America comedies. This will certainly fall on the former side, which is a step in the right direction in terms of the evolution of comedy. Plus it will just be nice to see veterans like Perry and Janney back on network television and really allowed to shine!

See a clip of Mr. Sunshine here.

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