ABC’s promotional assault on behalf of this promising comedy has been hard to miss, as the net continues to pursue a bet-the-farm-on-a-few-shows marketing strategy. Built around the billboard-friendly Heather Graham, series is being paired with the lobotomized return of the John Stamos starrer “Jake in Progress,” creating a one-hour block for the beautiful but perplexingly lovelorn. Breezy and fun, there are several reasons to sample “Emily,” but also plenty of room for skepticism over whether this witty half-hour has the depth to survive a highly competitive timeslot.
A publisher of self-help books who isn’t too adept at hearing advice, Graham’s Emily is rebounding from a disastrous relationship with one of her authors (guest star Mark Valley) before opting to embrace her childhood roots, when things seemed simpler. As such, she decides, if she can come up with five reasons not to date a guy, “he’s history.”
Obeying the reasons (which at times flash across the screen) is put to the test quickly, as Emily begins an office romance with the new marketing guy, Stan (Victor Webster), who seems strangely (indeed, given Graham’s assets, very strangely) reluctant to touch her. This fosters all sorts of debate with her sour friend Reilly (Nadia Dajani) and gay pal Josh (Khary Payton) about whether Stan might be gay, especially after she witnesses his preferred form of exercise, Brazilian jujitsu, which kind of looks like the trailer for “Brokeback Mountain.”
Adding considerable spice to Emily’s office environs, meanwhile, is her so-called “back-stabbing former assistant” Glitter Cho (Smith Cho), who delights in tormenting her. A potential breakout character, Glitter enters to the strains of the “Jaws” theme, deliciously embodying a sense of cheerful evil.
“Emily’s” is characteristic of many a modern comedy — heavy on voiceover and cute little visual flourishes as well as very girlish obsessing over relationships, “Sex and (Insert City Here)” style. At least in the premiere, though, Graham is a beguiling enough heroine, surrounded by amusing characters who make the mundane feel relatively fresh — highlighted by the laugh-out-loud funny jujitsu workout.
Credit some of that tone to writer-producer Emily Kapnek, working from Carrie Gerlach’s novel. Yet as with any such wispy premise, it’s questionable how many suitors can implode before the show begins to grow tedious. (The fact that behind-the-scenes changes delayed production, allowing ABC to send only the long-in-the-can pilot for review, isn’t a particularly good sign.)
The program also anchors a Monday lineup with which ABC has traditionally struggled, as the Disney network prepares for life after “Monday Night Football.” That said, “Emily” and its eye-catching star should be enough of a combo to inspire a respectable audience to give it a look. As for whether viewers stick around and choose to forgo “Two and a Half Men” for one attractive woman, the series is going to have to consistently prove it can deliver reasons why, or she’s history.