Friday, March 18, 2005

This is Progress?

It says something about ... something that ABC decided to program two full hours of their new comedy Jake In Progress opposite the first night of the NCAA Championship. They showed two new episodes followed by the two episodes that aired last Sunday. I bailed about ten minutes into the second half hour, just after Wendy Mallick was corralled by a trivia spouting employee who, against her will, Mallick was trying to get to know a little. I was getting a headache and life is too short to watch shows that you think might be giving you a headache.

Maybe I'm not the right audience for this show, but I found all of the characters depressingly self-centred. A self-centred character isn't a bad thing really but when all of the characters are self-centred, there's no one to root for or identify with, no one to like. John Stamos plays Jake Phillips, a New York publicist to the stars who, according to the clips we've seen ABC use to promote the show, has reached the point in his life that all men (well at least straight men who haven't done something stupid like entering the priesthood or a monastery) reach, where he wonders what it would be like to settle down with one woman and raise a family. Trouble is that he's so used to being a serial dater that he's not sure about how he's supposed to go about this. Maybe my problem is that I didn't see that in the episode I caught. What I saw was a battle of one-upsmanship between Jake and another publicist and Jake getting a chance to do it with an actress he's lusted after for years. Jake came across as a self centred jerk. Then there was Jakes friend the performance artist Patrick, played by Rick Hoffman who wants to go to a party so he can insult magician David Blane and plans out in detail how he's going to do it, down to which T-shirt made him look angrier. Wendy Mallick's character of Naomi is merely Nina from Just Shoot Me in a new office and a pregnancy belly. I didn't see much interaction with Ian Gomez as Jake's long-time best friend Adrian or with Margaret Welsh as Adrian's wife Naomi, so maybe this episode was a bit atypical. ABC has also promoted the series as "Different sex, same city" but it really doesn't live up to that billing. Carrie Bradshaw had at least some redeeming features and there was always Miranda. In fact the only totally self-centred character was Samantha, and even she had sympathetic moments. In what I saw of Jake In Progress there was none of this.

The writing is sharp, one might even say barbed. There were some good satirical moments when Jake was dealing with clients. There was the comedian who was putting together a play that was an entirely non-comedic attack on American - sorry "A Murderer" - international policy, in five very long acts; and in a different episode the "Three Gaymigos" (who seemed suspiciously like the Queer Eye Guys) one of whom was coming out of the closet as a heterosexual and the older actress played by Mel Harris who was living with a somewhat dense adolescent star but wanted to break up with him to go live with a 50-something psychiatrist (I wonder which actress with two daughters and a boob job and which star of a Fox comedy set in another decade they could be a send-up of). This is good stuff, and if the recurring characters even once did something that made me actually like some of them, or even feel some sympathy for them, I might tune in again. As it stands I think I'd prefer to watch Survivor, or This Old House, or basketball or even Joey. Life is too short.

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