The only word that comes to mind is “huh?” when describing this lame, “Green Acres”-inspired summer sitcom that manages to achieve the rare feat of being both laughless and spectacularly annoying. It’s as if the producers sat around struggling to concoct a way to make the show completely unwatchable and one of them finally blurted, “I know! We’ll give Fran Drescher a guest shot in the pilot!” Bingo.
Equally offensive to both cityfolk and rural denizens, comedy stars Judith Light as Sara Campbell, your basic high-strung Martha Stewart knockoff hosting her own TV show about country living. This is the first of the show’s many blunders, since to pattern a satirical character after a woman who is already a self-parody is short-sighted, at best.
Anyhow, as “The Simple Life” opens, Sara has just decided that she’s a fraud to be teaching a homespun existence while living in Manhattan. So she moves her show, her multimillion-dollar empire and her dysfunctional life to a farm in upstate New York.
Sara subsequently busies herself making simplistic pronouncements about farm life to her slacker daughter Frederica (Ashlee Levitch), telling her stuff like, “You don’t need therapy in the country. If you get tense, you just go and milk something!”
Dragged kicking and screaming by Sara on her midlife-crisis journey are her griping, horndog mother Muriel (Florence Stanley), her pompous, slack-jawed producer Greg (James Patrick Stuart) and the cornpone, hunky farm foreman Lucas (Brett Cullen), who exists primarily to be the target of sex-laced humor about men with sweaty bodies.
And oh yes, Drescher and Rachel Chagall show up to do cameos in their “Nanny” roles of Fran and Val.
Actors all appear to be more or less just going through the motions. Pilot script from exec producers Pam Norris, Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser is long on throwaway filler (Sara, to a sheep: “So, have any kids?”) and short on anything resembling reality.
Why, otherwise, would Sara reward her daughter’s pronouncement that she’s been booted out of school again with a hug and a pledge of undying support? And why else would bulls be allowed to wander onto a TV shoot? Martha, we hardly knew ye.
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