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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

PILOT REVIEW: Imaginary Mary

IMAGINARY MARY













Starring: Jenna Elfman, Stephen Schneider, Nicholas Coombe, Matreya Scarrwener, Erica Tremblay, and Rachel Dratch

Created by Adam F. Goldberg, David Guarascio, and Patrick Osborne
Written by Adam F. Goldberg, David Guarascio, & Patrick Osborne, Directed by Shawn Levy

Imaginary Mary is another comedy in the ABC family comedy genre which means similar types of kids and some sort of twist. But this time it's not an 80s family or a black family or an Asian American family or a family with a gay son or a child with a disability or an overweight mom. No, this one is a little bit weirder. It centers Alice (Jenna Elfman), a woman who had an imaginary friend named Mary (voiced by Rachel Dratch) throughout her childhood. When she falls for a single dad, Ben (Stephen Schneider), Mary reappears just as she is about to meet his three children (Nicholas Coombe, Matreya Scarrwener, Erica Tremblay).

My first instinct watching the opening montage of Alice growing up with Mary was that it was creepy but weirdly endearing. It ended up not being too much of either for the show. While this certainly fits into the ABC comedy wheelhouse, there's nothing here that really elevates it among the growing number of family comedies on the network that are starting to resemble each other a bit. While shows like Black-ish, The Goldbergs, and Fresh Off the Boat took their "twist" on the family comedy and embedded it as part of the show, this feels more like a gimmick. I'm just not sure how Mary is going to factor into every episode without it seeming forced.

I've also just always been mixed on Jenna Elfman. She's been in a lot of flops in the last decade and hasn't had a hit show since Dharma & Greg yet it seems like she pops up in a pilot every other year or so. I don't dislike her but her shtick is pretty tired by now and I kind of knew what her character would be like before we even met her. Rachel Dratch voicing Mary was a good idea because she has a lot of personality in her voice. Stephen Schneider and the kids were pretty forgettable. With so many great kids on ABC family sitcoms, I'm not convinced any of these three can measure up.

What makes the successful ABC comedies work is strong performances and a very loose premise that can allow for character-driven stories. Imaginary Mary may eventually meet that criteria but right now, it seems as though it's going to feel a whole lot more forced than it needs to be. Other than a funny moment at the bar with Elfman singing opposite her imaginary friend, did the "Mary" character really make a difference in the plot? I don't see this being the next great family comedy.

WILL I WATCH IT AGAIN?
I'm sure I'll give it at least another episode. I was ambivalent about American Housewife but have grown to enjoy it. I'm less optimistic on this one.

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