a female sports-writer hangs out with guys
Review Of: Season One, eps 1-13
Type of Series: sit-com
Similar Shows: Friends (a bunch of friends, hanging out together), Sex And The City (we follow their romantic adventures, often in serialized form)
Typical Episode: Each episode opens with PJ's narration, often a sports metaphor. We watch two/three sub-plots unfold involving her and her close friends. Usually, one of the plots is romance based. It all plays out against a backdrop of them meeting up to play poker, or at their local bar. The themes written about are the big ones, being honest with friends, coping with a break-up, etc., and - at the end - PJ's narration sums it all up.
The Inner Light: Everything can be summed up with a sports metaphor?
Strengths: Cast, writing.
Weaknesses: We've seen it all before.
Impressive Characters: None of the characters is impressive, per se. They are all very ordinary. PJ is a likable central character. She, her room-mate, and two more guys form a tight-knit core. A new guy (another sports writer), her brother and a solitary female friend, orbit the central group pretty closely. Everyone gets on with everyone, but there are subtle sub-groups, just like real life.
Impressive Actors: Jordana Spiro, the star, is impossibly cute. So adorable, she is completely off-the-scale. Pretty much any guy's idea of the perfect platonic friend. (She's also hot, which doesn't hurt.) Spiro can act, and she's funny. Kyle Howard, as the new guy to join the group, is a veteran of several sit-coms. Hilarious Jim Gaffigan plays her hilarious brother. Michael Bunin & Jamie Kaler form a double act within the central group, and are possibly my favourite characters in the whole piece. Reid Scott is her soon-to-be married room-mate, who's bride-to-be doesn't like PJ very much, and Kellee Stewart plays the one female friend that PJ has. Initally the writers kept her outside the core group, but as the series has gone on, they have given up on that idea and Stewart is seen out with the others just as much as Spiro, which negates the original premise a tiny-bit, but makes sense because Stewart is just as funny as Spiro and there's a lot of comedy gold in putting her side by side with the guys.
Impressive Episodes: The episodes devoted to PJ's boyfriend Hank and her attempts to make him gel with her friends were the best. Very well observed.
Impressive Writers: The series is created by Betsy Thomas. It probably works because although the central idea is a TV cliché, the writing avoids clichés like the plague and makes a point of writing things the way they often play out in real life. This genre has often sucked, not because it's a worthless genre, but because the shows in this genre were awful and fake. Stupid shows where you didn't believe for one second that the actors were friends (Four Kings, anyone?), and everything that happened to them was a TV cliché. On this show, it's easy to see them are buddies.
Less-Than-Impressive Episodes: My least favourite of the first 13 was the one where her brother turned out to be a bit of dick, when his wife wasn't around to rein him in.
Less-Than-Impressive Writers: No complaints from me.
Continuity: Weak. Unless it's a deliberate sub-plot running through a few episodes, the episodes are self-contained.
Rewatchability: Pretty good. The show is laugh-out-loud funny, so it's certainly worth watching a second time.
Three Things I Really Like About This Series:
The rest of the cast, and the incredible on-screen chemistry they share.
The show avoids cliché and writes things for real.
On paper this sound awful, but when you see it, it's magic. I disliked the idea of Friends when it started, and it was in it's second season (at least) before I even tried one episode. My initial reaction to this was similar. But, the pilot won me over and it is now one of my most favourite shows. It's a perfect example of what this genre should be.