Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Midseason Texas dramedy has hit potential, which doesn't mean it's good
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Good Christian Belles" [Or "G.C.B" if ABC is being coy.] (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "Desperate Housewives: Southern Edition"
Quick Response: ABC has always stunk a capitalizing on available resources. "Lost" was always a useless launching pad for new shows. "Desperate Housewives" somewhat launched "Grey's Anatomy," but then it was used to prop up "Brothers & Sisters" for far too long. "Castle" is about to end its fourth season taking advantage of "Dancing with the Stars," because why would the network every try using that slot for a different show? What I'm saying is that ABC could have spawned all manner of "Desperate Housewives" thematic spinoffs five years ago when the show was a hit. Instead, "Good Christian Belles" is a perfect pairing with "Desperate Housewives" at exactly the moment "Desperate Housewives" may be too tired to support it. Of course, "Good Christian Belles" is too tired to have been paired with "Desperate Housewives" in its half-a-season-peak. I'm certain there will be a group of people who love this pilot. I fear that sort of love requires a very specific appreciation for ridiculously broad, superficial, grating Texas -- not "Southern" as I initially wrote -- semi-parody, semi-camp, semi-soap, wholly-nothing. Because "Good Christian Belles" is BROAD and SUPERFICIAL and GRATING. It's like a higher budgeted -- but no better -- tonal companion for ABC's dreadful and short-lived translation of "Scoundrels." And it also, I'm very, very sad to say, provides one of the first pieces of evidence in recent memory that Kristin Chenoweth is fallible. Chenoweth is such a peculiar talent that it's astounding how well she's been utilized in recent years, but after specializing in annoying-yet-lovable, she's finally stumbled on a role that's only annoying and which throws off the calibration of everything around it. She's also too old to be believable as a former high school classmate of Leslie Bibb, who puts a lot of effort into keeping "GCB" afloat on perkiness alone. I found myself liking Bibb -- who I've always thought had the necessary gung-ho spirit to be a comedy star -- despite the show, which is exactly the opposite reaction from what I've heard from a couple colleagues. I dunno. I could be wrong. Some people are going to be just giddy that one character has dogs named "Tony" and "Romo" and will just giggle up a storm at the idea of a formerly rich character now being so poor she can only afford to live in FT. WORTH. To me, every beat felt like a desperate -- flop-sweat desperate -- attempt to simultaneously mock and celebrate everything from Texas to religion to femininity, while managing to do neither. One problem with a revenge-based pilot in which you don't really like any of the characters is that you can't choose who ought to be getting their comeuppance. Or you just don't care.
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All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.
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