You’ll like it if you already like: Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, True Blood…
Likely timeslot: Sunday at 9 (the old Desperate Housewives slot) or Monday at 10 (right after old-skewing Dancing With the Stars).
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. And in their drama department, ABC is in a desperate situation. They found no new hit this season, except Designated Survivor that is doing okay, while older dramas that are not Grey’s Anatomy are dying. So they asked Marc Cherry, one of their last hit maker, responsible for the rise and fall of the iconic Desperate Housewives, to give them something. Anything. And here we are.
“I am thrilled to be coming back home to ABC. What makes it all the sweeter is Reba McEntire is coming with me. And we can’t wait to share with our fans this wonderful Southern Gothic soap opera we’ve been cooking up for them” Cherry said in an official statement. I find it amusing that he considers having fans of his own. Reba McEntire has fans. Of course, she’s a legendary country music star (who wants to be an actress too for some reason). But Marc Cherry? I’m not sure. I mean, there are fans of Desperate Housewives all over the world. There must have fans of Devious Maids too. I am one of them. Don’t judge me. But fans of him? Anyway. It’s just PR after all. So, will those said fans be happy with his new project? Possibly. But not as much as they would have anticipated I’m afraid.
The first question I ask myself when I’m finished reading a pilot script from a renowned writer is not was it good or not but would it have been picked-up if it was not written by this particular talent that has a value for obvious marketing reasons (“from the writer that brought you Desperate Housewives“)? In this case, Marc Cherry has such a special voice that there is no doubt it’s him and there is no doubt it would have been picked up even written by someone else or written by a young and unproven Marc Cherry. Even though it’s clearly not his best work, it’s exactly what ABC needs: something heavily serialized but with a crime and an investigation at the center since there’s still a craving for this kind of shows; something fun and soapy, but not too dark since ABC had too many of those the past few years; and finally something that has the potential to stay on the air for years to come since you know, it’s a business.
Plus, it is believed to be part of the network’s push for more programming that reflects Middle America. On this, I’m not really sold. Yes, it is set in the traditionally Republican state of Kentucky -as both Marc Cherry and Reba McEntire are proud Republicans- but those people living in Oxblood are way too quirky for real americans to recognize themselves in them, apart, maybe, in our heroine and her family. For example, there’s the character of Miss Bo. She will probably be the funniest part of the show. But she runs the local brothel with “the ugliest whores in Kentucky”. I don’t think my mother or yours will recognize themselves in her. Except if your mother is “a Madam”. And that’s okay. I’m also thinking about the Winemiller sisters, black and colorful church ladies. They run a Bed & Breakfast and they talk a lot. Often at the same time. Not your regular neighbours. But anyway, that’s where the fun is. That’s Marc Cherry at his best. Bitchy comments, dialogues to die for. He still got it, my friends. If they find the right cast, magic will happen.
In case you’re wondering, Cherry isn’t offering here a celebration of Donald Trump and his digusting ideas, especially about immigration. But I had my doubts while I was reading the teaser. A brown-skinned woman that is supposed to be a terrorist after she plowed into crowd during a 4th of July parade, killing people (it reminded me of the Nice attack during Bastille Day last summer, which was probably his inspiration)… a detective who is described (in bold letters) as “Middle eastern decent”… but without revealing too much, it’s not what you think. It’s about looking beyond the appearrances for both the townspeople and the stranger coming to town. Like Cherry did with Desperate Housewives and even a bit with Devious Maids: there are no good or bad people in the end, there are only crazy people. It’s not life, it’s soap. And it’s not deep but it’s irreverent.
What I’m less fond of in the show is the investigation part. It’s not used as a distraction from time to time. It’s at the center of it all. And it’s Marc Cherry. The ones in Desperate Housewives were always kinda ridiculous. I’m afraid it’s still the case. It’s not yet, but it could become quickly. Especially if there are planning 22-episode seasons. Just don’t expect The Killing. Thankfully, the dynamic between Ruby and Tag looks different than what we’re used to. It’s not about them falling in love in the near future. She’s 55 (Reba is 61 but she has a “good” surgeon). He’s in his thirties. Well, it would be bold to make them fall in love but I don’t feel like it’s in the cards. It’s more of a mother/son relationship and I don’t recall such a duet in crime dramas. She’s a tough woman with a temper (who has every reason to be angry – her ex-husband Deke is now married to her ex-best friend, plus her junkie daughter left, leaving her 7 year-old son behind); he’s a sex-addict and rude and vegan FBI agent who doesn’t believe in love, monogamy or marriage. Definitely an interesting pair.
I don’t know if it’s because Twin Peaks is coming back or because networks suddenly remembered that America is not only made of big overcrowded cities, but quirky little towns are back in the game this year (Riverdale is another example) and the Marc Cherry Project is apparently ABC’s way of saying: “Middle America, we heard you. Let’s have some fun together!”. Fun, there is. It’s an exciting soap a little more grounded than usual mixed with a crime drama, that has enough potential to be considered as a frontrunner in this pilot season. It isn’t revolutionnary. It won’t be a game-changer show for the network but it could turn into a solid performer that will primarily resonate with older viewers (it lacks teenager/ young adult characters so far).