5 Questions And 500 Words: “Trophy Wife”

Welcome to another installment of “5 Questions and 500 Words,” my approach this year to reviewing the sundry pilots that will be unspooling over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I’m keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.

Trophy Wife, premieres September 24 at 9:30 pm EST on ABC


Could you compare the title of this show to another program in a way that is speaks volumes about its quality yet will make me cry all the same?

You betcha! “Trophy Wife” might be this year’s “Terriers,” in terms of the inverse relationship between the quality of the title and the quality of the show. With “Enlisted” now pushed until 2014, there’s no need to hedge bets: This is the most promising of the new Fall comedies. It’s laugh-out loud funny, has a sweet-but-not-treacly vibe, and features a cleverly constructed plot that deconstructs the show’s title.

But I thought comedy pilots were supposed to universally suck. What makes this different?

To be sure, there’s a lot of heavy lifting in this pilot, which introduces us not only the title character Kate (Malin Åkerman), but the far-reaching, “Modern Family”-esque family into which she unexpectedly enters. While introducing all of the new people in her life is narratively daunting (new husband, his two ex-wives, and the various children from these marriage), the pilot does it about as nimbly as can be reasonably expected. Plus? It’s already easy to see how the show can ping certain characters off one another and never reproduce the same combinations over the course of a single season.

Is there any reason I shouldn’t believe you?

In the interests of full disclosure, I was an undergraduate at the same time as show creator/executive producer Sarah Haskins, although we rarely crossed paths in our college’s theatre/improv comedy circles. If she remembers me now, that would be something of a miracle. The fact that it took two months for the name on the “Trophy Wife” credits to click with me should sell you on my objectivity here.

What’s the danger that the title itself will push people away from the show?

If you’re ABC, and you just got over years of explaining away “Cougar Town”, it seems odd to launch another promising show with a problematic title. Once anyone sees the show, they will understand the ironic nature of the title. But “irony” doesn’t play particularly well in the onscreen guide provided by most cable companies. I hate harping on the title more than the show, but the quality here isn’t in question. It’s the optics of the title that will prevent perfectly reasonable people from not tuning in. Keeping people once they arrive will be easy. Getting them through the door may be difficult.

Why else should I watch?

Because you think it’s a crime against culture when Bradley Whitford isn’t on television. Because you want to see Marcia Hay Harden escape the clutches of “The Newsroom”. Because you think Michaela Watkins got the shaft on “Saturday Night Live”. Because you want to see teenagers act like teenagers and not like problem-creating robots designed in a lab. Because the show offers up a vision of a family that is horribly splintered yet ultimately acts in the best interests of all involved. Check this out, people.