‘Romantically’ More Challenged by ABC Mess

God knows I didn’t think much of ABC’s new sitcom “Romantically Challenged,” starring Alyssa Milano, which premieres April 19. But I can’t remember a messier march to a program’s debut.

Newspapers today carry reviews of the premiere, only it’s not. The episode that was made available — which Milano was actually the fourth half-hour, not the pilot — was scheduled to kick off the series and posted for review online. Granted, that alone was confusing, since it picked up in the middle, without explaining who any of the characters are.

Then, at the last minute, ABC decided to go ahead and air the pilot first. Only nobody was officially notified, so most newspapers are running reviews of the fourth episode, “One-Night Stand,” which isn’t what viewers are going to see. (Since I found out about this over the weekend, I rewrote my review to reflect this change, although it was too late to do so in Weekly Variety, which carries the original version.)

As stated in the review, I can’t imagine this is going to make much of a difference, or that the audience capable of sitting through the show is particularly influenced by reviews. But it’s always amazing when a network spends several million dollars producing and promoting a program and then handles its introduction so incompetently, virtually telegraphing that the network doesn’t think much of its own product. The show, after all, was originally scheduled for April 12, then bounced a week at the last minute so ABC could run another two-hour “Dancing With the Stars.”

A 90-minute “Dancing” will lead into the premiere, which ought to ensure that “Challenged” at least gets sampled. And while the reviews don’t accurately reflect what viewers are going to see, if it’s anything like the episode that was screened for critics, I suspect their reaction will be similar to that of Milano in the picture above.

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