The message “Maggie” seems to impart to women is that if it sucks being married forever, it sucks more to lust in one’s heart and feel guilty about it all the time. And if there’s anything worse than boredom, it’s guilt.
“Maggie” is a lively but ultimately superficial new comedy about a woman on the verge of a midlife crisis as she hits 40 and the men in her life who are only too happy to make it worse.
Actually, there is a lot for women to embrace about “Maggie” even if they don’t necessarily take a cotton to its morality lessons or to its stilted, buffoonish depiction of family life. Opening script from executive producer Dan O’Shannon is astute in the way it taps into women’s fantasies and frustrations that tend to erupt as symptoms of middle age begin to surface.
It also helps to have the effervescent Ann Cusack anchoring things as our heroine Maggie Day, a feisty housewife trapped in a stable but stale 19 year marriage to a terminally chipper cardiologist named Arthur (John Getz). Their only child, colorless 17 year old Amanda (Morgan Nagler), hangs with a budding cartoonist named Reg (Todd Giebenhain) who aspires to be gay because that’s what all the cool artists are.
Determined not to be denied a life of her own, Maggie goes back to school to become a veterinarian and starts working part time at an animal clinic where oddballs bring in fish who seem depressed. It’s there that Maggie meets Richard (a terrific perf by John Slattery), your basic goofy, funny, sexy vet filling in temporarily at the clinic and on whom Maggie develops an instant crush. It briefly quells her fantasy of being swept off her feet by “Melrose Place’s” Jack Wagner, who shows up in the pilot as himself in an inspired piece of business.
Now Maggie decides that she needs to see a therapist (Francesca Roberts) to deal with all of this. In a tepid device, Maggie parenthetically addresses the shrink during key moments of her life, as if narrating her story in reverse. The therapist convinces her that fantasizing ain’t nearly the same as acting on it, even if Maggie believes her marriage has devolved from a grape to a raisin (don’t ask).
Show clearly has spunk straight out of the gate, with helmer Pamela Fryman guiding the action capably. And Cusack and Slattery enjoy a quirky chemistry. The suspicion, however, is that “Maggie” will grow tiresome as the audience begins to ask itself why a woman with so much to be thankful for continues to look her gift horse in the mouth.
Indeed, this show takes great pains to assure Lifetime’s legion of female viewers that it is perfectly natural — indeed, even necessary — for it to always be about me, me, me. Because if women don’t look out for their own happiness, heck, then who will? Tech credits are sharp.