Teri Polo and David Sutcliffe provide a winning chemistry in the first two episodes of “I’m With Her,” which could be enough to attract significant ratings in the hammock between “8 Simple Rules” and “According to Jim.” Otherwise, this love-at-first-sight sitcom about the romance between an actress and a teacher relies on all-obvious jokes and situations.
Based loosely on creator Chris Henchy’s relationship with Brooke Shields, “I’m With Her” gets down to business quickly with the meet-cute between Sutcliffe’s Patrick Owen and Polo’s Alex Young. The two are instantly smitten with each other — she is, of course, willing to give anything a try and he’s the hesitant one, figuring she’s out of his league.
As the stories play out in the pilot and “Smarty Party” eps — with a better than average number of smart one-liners — “I’m With Her” clearly intends to make smart teacher-dumb blonde its bread and butter. Owen is not only committed to teaching high school, his dating past is apparently populated by even more studious women. Young has more contrasting sides: her love life has been fodder for tabloids, but a love of dogs and charitable heart give her down-to-earth qualities. It’s his uneasiness over her lifestyle vs. her absence of book knowledge that drives the humor.
The two have their far less-complicated comrades: Fellow teacher Stevie (Danny Comden), who asks Owen to sleep with Young and then tell him about it — need we say more? — and Young’s sister/housemate Cheri (Rhea Seehorn), who sees the different success levels between the two siblings as the case of who got the nose job. Cheri gets a fair share of Hollywood in-jokes that might not play as well as they do locally. Stevie, with his untucked shirts and lack of ethics, will be the bane of teachers everywhere.
By the end of the second episode, it’s clear Owen and Young will be making a go of it as a couple. Sutcliffe and Polo are great to watch during the chase, but one has to wonder if they can be as engaging as a couple without silly trifles splitting them apart. They’re at their best onscreen together and, like the shows that surround it, there’s a pleasant undercurrent about maintaining healthy relationships.
Polo’s weakest acting moment comes when Young is feeling sorry for herself and decides to make herself smarter. Similarly, Sutcliffe brings “I’m With Her” to a crawl when he’s left by his lonesome to make a decision. Scribes need to bring the supporting duo into fish-out-of-water situations as well to elicit laughs that don’t come at the expense of the movie star. Those jokes have already played out.