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Amy Sherman-Palladino's "The Return of Jezebel James" Launches Tonight

Sigh. I love Amy Sherman-Palladino. I really do.

I can't imagine a world without Gilmore Girls, the quirky and endearing drama she created for the WB; in the first episode alone, she proved that dramas needn't be stodgy or lack the sort of pop culture, hyper-real, breakneck-paced dialogue that her characters spout at the drop of one of Sherman-Palladino's trademark hats.

Last year, when I watched the pilot episode of The Return of Jezebel James, Sherman-Palladino's new FOX comedy starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose, I was deeply disappointed. My critical review of the pilot drew all manner of responses from people anxious to see Sherman-Palladino's latest work who were quick to defend her... and those who had seen the pilot and were just as crestfallen as I was.

While I offered suggestions last May about how best to fix the extremely awkward pilot episode, my criticism of the series centered mainly around Posey's shrill delivery, the women's bizarre wardrobe, and the irritating laugh track, which jarred with the dialogue, which seemed plucked from the pages of a single-camera comedy script:

"So why doesn't The Return of Jezebel James work? For one thing, it's mostly shot as a multi-camera traditional sitcom, complete with an obnoxious and off-putting laugh track that literally makes you not want to laugh; it's disconcerting and awkward and doesn't match at all with the sort of smooth dialogue and character interplay that would be much more at home in a single-camera comedy. The laugh track actually distracts you from the funny, covering several jokes and making the flow much more of a set up-beat-punchline-pause format than the material warrants. (Old Christine is the perfect example of a show that succeeds in spite of the raucous laugh track; 30 Rock would be a mess with such a device.) These well-crafted lines of dialogue are smashed into verbal mush by what I believe to be the network's inability to trust the audience. Trust me, FOX, we don't need to be told when to laugh."

Will you agree with my overwhelming problems with the series and that inane laugh track? Find out tonight as FOX premieres The Return of Jezebel James in a Friday night timeslot that belies the network's lack of faith in the seven-episode comedy. Let's just hope that Sherman-Palladino learns from this experience for her next series...

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Price is Right (CBS); Amnesia (NBC); Friday Night SmackDown! (CW; 8-10 pm); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Return of Jezebel James/Return of Jezebel James
(FOX)

9 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Dateline (NBC; 9-11 pm); 20/20 (ABC);
House (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS);
20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8-11 pm: BBC America.

If you happen to be staying in after a long work week, why not do it in true Anglophile style with back-to-back episodes of Coupling and new sketch comedy series That Mitchell and Webb Look from the stars of Peep Show?

Comments

Unknown said…
Seriously! Laugh tracks are so '70s. I cringe whenever I have the misfortune to hear one, and I can't think of a comedy I've watched recently with one. The Office and Arrested Development are and were great partly because they didn't insult the audience's intelligence with "Hey, you should laugh now!" punctuation.
Anonymous said…
I also saw the pilot way back when and, as a huge Sherman-Palladino fan, was greatly disappointed. That said, I will revisit the show tonight in the hope that some of the problems have been fixed. Wishful thinking, I know.
Anonymous said…
That was horrifically bad. I loved Gilmore Girls and this was just pathetic and unfunny.
Brad said…
Watching that made my heart hurt. The only solace is that The (American) Office had a pretty awful first season, and the second episode was a slight improvement on the pilot (though the change in Parker Posey's living situation was really jarring).

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