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'Jennifer Falls' premiere recap: It's a personality problem

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Pilot” | Aired June 4, 2014

TV Land is venturing out of its normal programming with tonight’s Jennifer Falls, and I, for one, think they got it right. Jamie Pressly plays clever, although tightly wound, Jennifer Doyle, an on-the-way-down former executive who must return home, teenage daughter in tow, to live with her mother and work in her brother’s sports bar.

TamborAs the episode opens, Jeffrey Tambor makes a cameo as her clueless, mostly sexist boss, Dan, who fires her for being too aggressive and too cocky — qualities that, as Jennifer points out, would get a man promoted. Dan scolds her for mean comments such as those and accuses her of having a “personality problem.” Tambor’s cameo is one of the tiny surprises this pilot offers, and I am giddy to see both George and Lucille Bluth together again in the same half-hour, even if it’s unclear if he’ll return.

Dejectedmonologue and at rock bottom, Jennifer directly addresses the audience, Modern Family–style, in a mini-monologue. She reveals that her search for a new job is not going well because blackballing is a real thing, since “all the  men in my industry find me terrifying, while the women find me inspiring … and terrifying.” This sets up the gender themes that will inevitably surface through the arc of the season, and establishes Jennifer as the angry yet put-upon heroine we’re supposed to root for, but definitely not be afraid of.

UhaulAs Jennifer and her daughter, Gretchen (Dylan Gellula), load the U-Haul with all their belongings, Gretchen asks her mother if she is going to be drunk the whole time. Jennifer replies, “It’s looking that way, sweetie.” This gives us a little insight into the relationship with Jennifer’s mother, Maggie (Jessica Walter), at whom Jennifer can be heard yelling, “You’re not listening to me, Mother,” over and over in the same scene. It looks like Jennifer is in for it with her mother, although we don’t get a real sense of that in this first episode.

MaggieJennifer and Gretchen arrive home to a party given by Maggie, complete with a mariachi band, that allows us to meet others in Jennifer’s family: the perky, passive aggressive sister-in-law Stephanie (Nora Kirkpatrick), who seems to enjoy Jennifer’s new circumstances a little too much, and the hen-pecked brother, Wayne, played by Ethan Suplee, who offers her a job at his bar. Suplee could make me laugh by reading the phone book, and he and Pressly slip into a familiarity that makes me miss my beloved My Name is Earl. (He is brilliant in that show. Netflix it NOW!)

RefForced to work in Wayne’s sports bar and wear a shrunken, sexy referee costume, Jennifer faces her own feelings of failure and disappointment. Stephanie, who obviously runs the show, continues to grind Jennifer’s nose in her shortfalls, but does so through a clenched smile and saccharine tone, so her asshole vibe comes dressed in pearls (like that makes it any better). Like Jennifer, I would like to do physical violence to Stephanie, but some of the funniest moments come from scenes with these two ladies, especially when you can see Jaime Pressly vibrate with restraint as she plays Jennifer holding back.

dinaAs Jennifer tries to find her footing in her new job, she runs into her childhood friend Dina, the criminally underused Missi Pyle, who is recently divorced, is possibly a lesbian and can be funny without saying a word. Dina isn’t as happy to see Jennifer as Jennifer expected. Having gained so much success made Jennifer forget about her former relationships and leave Dina without her support when she needed it. She was a crappy friend to Dina, and Dina has been angry about it all this time.

hoodThey make up, but not before Jennifer launches herself onto Dina’s hood, and only after Stephanie interrupts their talk to remind Jennifer about bar policy: “We don’t usually take breaks so soon after arriving … late. And in the parking lot. And in a friend’s car. Don’t worry, you’ll get this.”

There are some pretty funny moments that fly by, almost under the radar — Maggie’s assistant lying to Jennifer about her mother not being available “as a coping mechanism,” the running joke about Maggie not listening to Jennifer, and the joke about Jennifer’s boobs made me laugh at first, but became funnier as I thought about them after.

Jennifer_MaggieIt is so hard to judge a show just on its pilot, but this one has potential. As TV Land reaches out to younger viewers, it gives the show a little latitude to work with material that is slightly edgier, and that is where Jaime Pressly thrives.

While the show has some problems (ill-timed fart jokes, breaking the pacing while Jennifer addresses the audience, the single-mother statistics), it has my attention, and I’m looking forward to writing about it every week.

What do you think about Jennifer Falls? Tweet me your favorite moments.

For more about what I think about various shows and such, visit me at Honest Reviews Corner or TV Mega Site.

Jennifer Falls, rated TV-PG, airs Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30 C on TV Land.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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