Taped in Los Angeles by Weest Inc. in association with Touchstone Television. Executive producer, Warren Bell; co-executive producer, Michael Lessac; supervising producers, David Fury, Elin Hampton; producers, Brian J. Cowan, Douglas Tuber, Tim Maile, Lisa Ann Walter, Sam Baum; director, Lessac; writers, Bell, Lisa Ann Walter; executive consultant, Betsy Borns; The disarmingly appealing Lisa Ann Walter teams with the charmingly low-key Michael O’Keefe in a zesty but uneven family comedy that injects more than a dash of sexism into its comedic stew.
Show alternates confusingly between 1950s and 1990s sensibilities. Walter a sort of thinking-man’s sexpot stars as Lisa Hunter, a woman trapped between the mommy track and the money track.
She has had two kids while slaving to finish law school, and now that she’s done she needs to figure out a way to balance work and parental responsibilities with her college hoops coach hubby Kevin (O’Keefe).
All very ’90s, all very swell. But then the audience gets a load of the motley collection of misfits who populate the office where Lisa just got a job as an assistant state’s attorney, and everything goes straight to heck.
Start with the fact that everyone reacts to Lisa as if she’s the first intelligent and attractive woman they have ever seen in a workplace. Then, Lisa blows her first case by showing up late.
The gender-buffoon aspect is surprising, considering that it was Walter (along with exec producer Warren Bell) who wrote this pilot script to emphasize her character’s daunting double life; instead, the plot makes it seem the working world is still singularly estrogen-challenged.
Too bad, because there are a lot of things to like about “Life’s Work,” not the least of which is Walter herself. She has a saucy, in-your-face presence and superb comic timing when she isn’t swallowing her lines and blunting their impact, such as when she tosses away, “I’ve had one of those Carrie-at-the-prom-extra-pig’s-blood kind of days.” But when she is on, Walter is a Bette Midler for the ’90s.
She works well with O’Keefe and goofball supporting players Larry Miller (prickly, as always, playing Lisa’s new boss Jerome), Andrew Lowery (as yuppie scum associate Lyndon) and Lightfield Lewis (as weirdo office manager Matt, doing his own unique variation of Woody Harrelson in “Natural Born Killers”).
There may be a problem incorporating the two kids into future episodes. Right now, they seem more a prop and a distraction. Under Michael Lessac’s direction, “Life’s Work” could use a bit more genuine familial interaction, and less strident woman-as-perpetual-underdog-trying-to-have-it-all angst.
Given that Walter’s show is sandwiched in the cushy slot between “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement” on Tuesday nights, the odds are pretty good that she won’t remain an underdog for long.