Libby & Malcolm (ABC) pilot preview: Give it the “Best Comedy” Emmy Award already!

Written and produced by Kenya Barris (Blackish, The Game, Are we there yet?) & Vijal Patel (Blackish, The Middle). Also produced by Felicity Huffman & E. Brian Dobbins (The Sea of Trees). 37 pages. Network draft 11/28/16. For ABC Studios, Principato-Young Entertainment &  Khalabo Ink Society.

Description: Two opposing pundits also happen to be married. One’s black, one’s white; one’s left, one’s right. Bitter rivals at work on their own political talk show Black & Wright, Libby & Malcolm have to turn conflict into compromise at home when it comes to raising their kids…

With Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, American Crime, Sports Night, Transamerica), Courtney B. Vance (American Crime Story, Law & Order Criminal Intent, Flashforward, 12 Angry Men), Gary Cole (The Good Wife, Veep, The West Wing), James Lesure (Las Vegas, Men at Work, Liptstick Jungle), Caitlin McGee, Monique Green, Sayeed Shahidi (Uncle Buck), Jahi Di’allo Winston

     

You’ll like it if you already like: Modern Family, Blackish, Veep

Likely timeslot: wednesday, 9.30 after Modern Family.


Libby & Malcolm
was the first official order for the 2017 broadcast pilot season, it is the first script review I’m writing this year and it is undoubtedly the best comedy script in years! No surprise there was a bidding war among the networks to get it, especially with Felicity Huffman attached to star. And there was no better place for it than ABC quite frankly. It is the perfect combination between your regular family comedy with smart and hilarious parents and kids in the same vein as Modern Family and other ABC hits, your workplace comedy set behind the scenes of a television show like 30 Rock and your spicy political comedy that takes a very real look at how today’s “politics of division” play out. It couldn’t be more topical after the election of Donald Trump. It is the right comedy in the right place at the right time. And it’s already an Emmy Award contender for best comedy, best actress in a comedy and best actor in a comedy!

What’s brilliant with this show in the first place is how much it exists in the real world, the one we’re all living in, and in the now. At the beginning, there are images of glaciers collapsing, Syria, abandoned Detroit houses, cop shootings… Yeah yeah, it’s a comedy but it doesn’t shy away from the important topics and the real politics. It’s about the current and the future administration. Obama takes hits. Trump takes hits. Voters themselves take hits. And it’s not just about America. It’s about the whole world. It should resonate everywhere. What they experience over there is what we experience over here, and there and there. And it’s not boring. Fear not!

On the contrary. It’s funny all the time. It’s always sharp and clever. Tasteful. It can be ferocious too. Those two can get pretty nasty. You laugh and you think, and you think about why you’re laughing, maybe you even laugh about what you’re thinking. It creates debate. It places ideas at the center of it all. For example, during Libby & Malcolm talk show, there’s a led board of a light square hopping around various hot button issues, from very serious ones -LGBT rights, recycling- to lighter ones -sports team names- then they have to talk about the topic chosen with their guest, who’s Jon Hamm in the pilot (and yes, there’s a joke about his scrotch!). It’s very efficient and should be used as a gimmick in every episode. It will help the show stay relevant and close to reality. We also meet their producer, Randal Martin, a 60-year old complete narcissist, possibly racist, whose every line is hilarious; and Zev, their assistant, a techno journalist in her thirties who must be a lesbian according to Randal because she has a short hair cut. They’re all very promising. The pilot is filled with other guests (maybe a bit a too many?) like Tom Bergeron, Ryan Seacrest and Bill Maher, playing themselves.

The Black and Wright family is definitely a modern one. Malcolm, confident and cocky, had three children with his deceased wife: MJ, a sweet but neurotic 7 year-old boy, Cassius, 11, smart and cool, and Naya, 14, super-opiniated, “a pitbull” in a skirt, who hates Libby. Libby is their white step mom, a bright, beautiful, and bossy woman, who was already married once. Libby and Malcolm met not that long ago, they hated each other before falling in love and they decided to marry and live together very quickly. Now they are doing their best to be good parents while they are in the spotlight. Felicity Huffman & Courtney B. Vance will probably make a great couple. And Huffman has literally chemistry with everyone -that’s how good she is- so there is no doubt about it. They have plenty of top-notch dialogues to help them do so, and even some “walk and talk” scenes, made popular by The West Wing. And in case you’re wondering, there are also very sweet moments with the kids towards the end, the kind that can make you cry juste like that. Yes, there’s eveything we could hope for in this pilot. Everything!

In the end, Libby & Malcolm is about finding strength and answers through our differences, whether they are political or personal. It’s about unity. And unity is exactly what is missing in this sad sad world. It gives reflection, hope and fun. There are not so many comedies like that on television right now, let alone on a network. The next great comedy is here. And we’re ready for it.

3 comments

  1. KLA7 says:

    Nooo! Really? ABC seriously passed on that one? This was by far the best comedy project they had this year. I heard there’s been reshoots and all, maybe it wasn’t ready enough to be picked this year.

  2. ANTONIO95 says:

    I love Felicity Huffman and I would give this a try just for her. I hope it’s as good as this preview makes it sound.What’s next Thin Ice or Good Girls?

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