Pilot Perception: Trophy Wife

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Trophy Wife, ABC in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c

The Pedigree: The pilot was written by Emily Halpern (Private Practice) and Sarah Haskins (InfoMania), who executive produce with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (The Office). Jason Moore (Brothers & Sisters) directed.

The Cast & How You Know Them: Trophy Wife stars Malin Akerman (Suburgatory), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Marcia Gay Harden (The Newsroom), Michaela Watkins (Enlightened), Natalie Morales (White Collar), Ryan Lee (Super 8), Bailee Madison (Once Upon a Time), and Albert Tsai (How I Met Your Mother).

The Premise: Trophy Wife is about a young woman who falls for an older man – and when she marries him, she also inherits an instant family, consisting of his three children and two ex-wife. She has to finish growing up quickly and figure out her place in this complicated family.

A Taste:

What Works: This was one of my favorite new comedies so far. It’s not flashy or high-concept, but it’s funny and also basically warm; the viewer is definitely left with the feeling that these characters are all basically good people who are trying to do their best for their family. The cast is stellar; I always love Bradley Whitford’s work, but I knew less of Malin Akerman and was delighted by her slightly ditziness (that never went so far as to suggest she was stupid) and comic timing. The ex-wives both seem interesting and sympathetic, but not to the extent that we’re rooting for them over the current wife. And even the kids are mostly funny rather than annoying!

What Doesn’t: The family is supposed to be chaotic, but the tone of the show became overly frenetic at a few points. Hopefully that will calm down as the characters and dynamics are more firmly established and don’t need to be constantly reinforced. Similarly, some of the character attributes were broadly drawn, setting up dichotomies (scientist vs. new ager, for example) that were helpful in the pilot but will need to be fleshed out and made more complex as the series progresses. (And, of course, the title is terrible – both inaccurate and off-putting – but there’s really nothing to be done about that now.)

Our Favorite Line: “Jackie, do you mind if I just try a modern healing technique called science?”

You Might Like This if you like warm-hearted comedies about complicated families; it’s getting Modern Family comparisons, but I haven’t seen that one, so I can’t personally vouch for the similarity. Alternatively, give it a try if you want to watch three different but all dynamic women play off each other in interesting ways.

If You’re Interested: Catch up on the first episode on Hulu, the ABC site, or the CTV site. Then set your DVR for next Tuesday at 9:30/8:30c for episode two.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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