Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chaos in General Gives Miss Guided a Little Guidance

I'm sitting on my couch watching TV before I leave for rehearsal in a few minutes. Tonight I ate a salad for dinner (really, more like Italian dressing with a side of spinach) and watched the two most recent episodes (including, I believe, the season finale) of Miss Guided, Judy Greer's new ABC show.

Let me start off by saying I love Judy Greer. She was in Elizabethtown and 13 Going on 30, both of which are sitting on my DVD shelf, as well as 27 Dresses, The Wedding Planner, and ten episodes of Arrested Development, which aren't, but should be. I find her incredibly funny; her deadpan is amazing and her mannerisms crack me up.

Was I instantly enamored with her show? Not completely. But I think it has potential.

Greer's Becky Freeley was socially awkward--but secretly awesome--in high school, and she sort of plays the same role as a grown-up guidance counselor. At the same school. Where the omnipresent queen bee is a teacher. Becky has to navigate faculty dynamics (including the obligatory teacher crush), helping the kids, and reclaiming her high school self.

Yeah, I've seen this show before, too. The concept isn't exactly new.

But the delivery is...kind of. The show uses what Officefolk call "talking heads," but does so without a diegetic source. Breaking the fourth wall is what separates this show from its multitude of predecessors. In fact, the talking heads are pretty much the cleverest part of the show.

I'd like to see this show get picked up for the fall and then spend the summer retooling a little. Remember how much better season two of The Office was than season one? Like, "The Dundies" happened and it was the best show ever. The Miss Guided folks just need to figure out what works, what doesn't, and how to better differentiate it from the whoa-harried plot.

Because when you think about, Judy Greer is basically playing Jennifer Garner's character in the second half of 13 Going on 30 and Brooke Burns is Judy Greer's 13 Going on 30 character, Tom-Tom/Lucy. I did love Becky's description of frienemies. So true. See, that's what this show does well--expose how much grown-up life is just like high school.

Okay, confession time! When I was a senior in high school, I wasn't really in a clique. I had friends in a lot of circles, and I kind of knew a lot of people without really being friends with them...what my favorite neighbor calls "part-time friends." Anyway, but my group of drama friends was cliquish within our own sort-of-clique. And one time, I had a party at my house and everyone came and then there was a secret afterparty for just the popular clique-within-the-clique. So this girl who wasn't in the clique-within-the-clique was seriously overstaying her welcome, so the secret afterparty guests pretended to leave--like, actually got in their cars and drove away and then came back to my house ten minutes later. That was the meanest thing I've ever participated in.

And guess what? My grown-up group of friends did that to me the other day. No lies! Except I am way better about figuring such things out, obviously...hello, I watch Alias. And at the end of the day, I could have been angry about it, but it's way more fun to just laugh about how freaking high school those losers are and go out drinking with your real friends.

ANYWAY, that's what Miss Guided pinpoints...that feeling of dread about being unpopular, the bizarre social tendency to disclude people, to try desperately to just fit in...somewhere, anywhere, no matter who with. That's what it needs to be highlighting, because it's really freaking funny.

How about a hot, sexy, SMART love interest for Becky? Because Tim is a loser. He doesn't deserve her. She needs better, and it's pretty slim pickins around that school.

They've created a universe of interesting characters (gosh, I love Chris Parnell!) and just need to work on the stories a little more. Resist the urge to go for the easy story--how many of you saw the Tim/Lisa Germaine storyline coming atcha from a mile away?

And for crying out loud, high school drama productions never have budgets as big or timetables as tight or crews as massive as television portrays. It takes at least two months to put on a good musical, folks, not one episode. Rant over.

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