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TV Review: ‘Trophy Wife’

Fast-paced pilot doesn't do enough to sell the central relationships in this ABC sitcom

With:

Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford, Michaela Watkins, Natalie Morales, Ryan Scott Lee, Bailee Madison, Albert Tsai, Marcia Gay Harden

If ever a comedy pilot cried out for a one-hour premiere, it’s “Trophy Wife,” a series that races through so much plot in its introductory half-hour as to practically obliterate its central relationship. Essentially skipping the whole romantic-comedy and jumping straight into the sitcom part, the series has an appealing lead in Malin Akerman and a promising supporting cast. That said, the show is so intent on jumping to the “hot stepmom” gags that it doesn’t give its characters much room to breathe — much less time for us to get to know them, or each other.

Akerman’s Kate is a pretty, young party girl when she meets cute with Pete (Bradley Whitford), resulting in a bloody nose and emergency-room trip. A meaningful glance, and presto, they’re married, with her inheriting his kids and him dealing with two ex-wives, played by Marcia Gay Harden and “Saturday Night Live’s” Michaela Watkins.

Subjected to the inevitable barbs about being a “MILF” and Pete’s “child bride,” Kate labors to win over those around her, from trying to be the cool parent to earning a modicum of respect from the exes. Those efforts yield some funny visual bits and plenty of awkward moments, but little that qualifies as a genuine laugh.

The high divorce rate has certainly produced plenty of families with this kind of configuration, as well as sizable age gaps between spouses. Still, in asking the show’s likely predominantly female audience to identify with Akerman’s Kate, series creators Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern (the concept is described as being “loosely based” on Haskins’ real life) are asking an awful lot, and they don’t help their cause by doing so little to establish the chemistry between Kate and Pete.

Trophy Wife” also didn’t land an especially desirable timeslot, paired as it is with “The Goldbergs,” another uneven family comedy; and following “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” offering the slim chance a few fanboys still pining for Akerman from her “Watchmen” role will keep their hands off the remote.

So despite promising elements, there simply isn’t a lot in this premise that demands a second date, much less a longterm commitment. And while the pilot merits a second look, based on first impressions, “Trophy Wife” won’t win any prizes.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Trophy Wife'

(Series; ABC, Tues. Sept. 24, 9:30 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Los Angeles by Quantity Entertainment in association with ABC Studios.

Crew:

Executive producers, Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins; producers, Dan Kaplow, Malin Akerman; director, Jason Moore; writers, Halpern, Haskins; camera, Julio Macat; production designer, Cabot McMullen; editor, Lisa Zeno Churgin; music, Mark Kilian, Jake Monaco; casting, Anya Colloff, Michael Nicolo, Charley Medigovich. 30 MIN.

Cast:

Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford, Michaela Watkins, Natalie Morales, Ryan Scott Lee, Bailee Madison, Albert Tsai, Marcia Gay Harden

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