Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Watch This? Why Not

I just got around to watching Emily's Reasons Why Not thanks to my Monday schedule which keeps me from establishing many ties to TV shows on that night. I tape a couple of shows (Las Vegas and CSI: Miami) and will be taping 24 once it gets back, but for the rest of the shows I normally don't even have time to sample them. I'll catch them in reruns... if they make it that long. Still if you're going to review you should make an effort, so I taped the series premiere of Emily's Reasons Why Not and the season premiere of Jake In Progress and I tried Emily on Tuesday night.

Heather Graham plays Emily, and I have to admit that she's damned cute. Now that shouldn't really matter but for some reason the main characters in this series sort of look the way their characters "should". It's kind of hard to explain but let's take Emily herself. According to the setup, explained in the first minute or two of the pilot, Emily is a young woman who has never had any difficulty in finding reasons not to do things she shouldn't do. This trait has, over the course of the years, apparently kept her for starting smoking (my VCR cut off the first 30 or so seconds of the show so I missed most of the childhood scene that introduced the character) and led her to become a successful editor with a major New York publishing house. The only place where her ability to find reasons not to do something has perpetually failed her has been with regard to the male of the species. In the words of the song, she "falls in love too easily". Most recently she's been involved with Reese, one of her authors, who has written a book called "Hook, Lie And Sinker: The Lies Men Tell Women And The Lies Women Tell Themselves". Clearly, just the act of hooking up with this guy on anything other than a one night stand basis and being surprised when she finds that he's been cheating on her is absolute proof that Emily is hopelessly naive about men. Either that or she's hopelessly optimistic about them which in this case is much the same thing. Which is where Heather Graham's appearance comes in. She has that naive, hopeless optimist vibe going right from the start in no small part because of the way she looks. It certainly doesn't hurt that she's a good enough actress to go beyond just appearance, and at the same time convince us that she's good at her job.

Appearance also plays into the two female members of Graham's supporting cast, Nadia Dajani as Emily's best friend Reilly and Smith Cho as her bitch of a colleague (and former assistant - she was promoted after claiming one of Emily's ideas for her own) Glitter Cho. Dajani has the appearance of someone who has been through the mill a few times and as a result has developed a crusty cynical exterior that Emily lacks. Reilly works with Emily's other best friend Josh (played by Khary Payton) a gay man who has recently moved in with his boyfriend Aknad. Of the three he's got the most stable relationship. When the two of them commiserate with Emily after her break up with Reese, Reilly is unable to resist an oblique "I told you so", which leads Emily to vow to look harder for reasons not to become involved with a man.

Emily's resolve is tested almost immediately when she meets a new man "Stan from marketing". They hit it off almost immediately and start dating. Even Glitter expresses her "approval" by cattily (is it possible to be catty and a bitch?) saying that she'd move in on him if he wasn't taken and then trying as hard as she can to bring Emily and Reese back together. Stan and Emily have fun together and it's almost perfect except for one thing: Stan won't kiss her. In fact any attempt at intimate contact seems to repulse him and when she finally gets him to sleep with her, that's what he does - sleep. Reilly and Josh have suggested that Stan could be gay, although Reilly informs them that some of the best sex she ever had was with a gay man who was trying to prove to himself that he wasn't gay - he kept trying to prove it over and over again for hours on end. Emily doesn't believe them until "evidence" starts to mount up: when Stan sleeps with her he actually sleeps with her, Stan wears makeup (specifically bronzer), Stan subscribes to Martha Stewart Living. The capper is when she tells Reese that Stan is an expert at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and he bursts into a laughing fit calling it the "gayest sport ever". Going with her to see Stan participate in it Josh and Aknad tell her that this is very gay behaviour, and of course when your gay friends say he's gay he must be gay. Emily breaks up with Stan but does it in a very "male" way - she leaves a message on his voice mail (again her judgement in matters related to men is absolutely faulty). The punch line - and of course there has to be a punch line - is delivered by Glitter. She met Stan's sisters the night before and she knows a secret; Stan is a Mormon and a virgin. Unfortunately Emily doesn't find this out until after Stan and about four of his colleagues in the marketing department hear the voicemail break up.

I mostly enjoyed Emily's Reasons Why Not and a lot of it has to do with Heather Graham. She manages to to pull off the goofy side of Emily's personality in a believable manner. Nadia Dajani is solid as the cynical best friend. If I have to find fault with the casting it might be with Khary Payton who seems to be pushing the gayness of his character rather aggressively, coming close to the edge of stereotyping. The smile he gets when watching the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a little bit too much. Smith Cho seems to be there to serve in whatever manner the writers want her to function in - meddler, wannabe Cupid (if being Cupid means she gets a shot at Stan by putting Emily back with Reese) and bringer of what in most situations would be good news. Maybe I just don't have a good read on Glitter yet. As for the show itself, there seems to be a desire in some quarters to compare it to Sex And The City, perhaps because, like Sex And The City it is based on a novel, this one by Carrie Gerlach. Beyond this I don't see the similarity, unless perhaps it's Sex And The City with Charlotte as the lead character. Carrie (or even Charlotte) was never as naive about men, or driven by her hormones, as Emily seems to be. Emily seems to have more in common with Ted from How I Met Your Mother than she does with the women of Sex And The City in terms of trying to find the right "one" in a city full of wrong ones. That's not to compare the two series though. How I Met Your Mother has what I can only describe as a warmer sensibility about it. The supporting characters so far seem more likable. In this Emily does seem to have something in common with Sex And The City.

On the whole I liked Emily's Reasons Why Not - and certainly I found it more appealing than I ever have the show that follows it in ABC's new Monday night lineup, Jake In Progress. The writing seems good and if they can sustain it over the long haul it should be okay. The big problem I see - besides 24, Las Vegas and the CBS comedy lineup - is that I'm not sure the premise will be able to sustain a lengthy run. The premise (based on seeing one episode of course) seems to be Emily meets a guy and becomes "smitten", Emily begins to develop doubts about the relationship, Emily find reasons to end it - valid or not, Emily takes solace in her friends and professional life while looking for the next Mr. Right. How many times can you repeat that before it starts to get old? Of course, given the competition it might not get the chance. It's a show you should at least try to see once while you have the chance.

No comments: