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The transition from mini-series to regular show seems to be an easy one for The Starter Wife, however when your source material is based on a book, the real challenge is bring that series to life while still appeasing fans of the original works, and keeping the characters true to themselves and the audience.

The premiere episode of the series, “The Forty-Year-Old Virgin Queen” starts off curiously enough with Debra Messing in her best Elizabeth get-up proclaiming she has sworn off men, this curious flash, and another later in the episode showcasing the Creature’s creation in Frankenstein seemed horribly out of place in the dramedy. However, besides these scripting decision, The Starter Wife settles in nicely with its established characters, but for newcomers there isn’t a whole lot of character recapping besides Molly Kagan (Messing).

One of the biggest standouts, for better or worse, is the recasting of Kenny Kagan previously played by Peter Jacobson who is now in a fellowship on House. The producers chose to cast David Alan Basche in the role, which would make sense, except everything physically about this Kenny and the former-Kenny are completely different. Jacobson fit into the roll much better, everything about him and the way the character was played screamed Hollywood exec, however Basche, in no part his fault, just seems miss-cast when you look at the way the character was portrayed in the mini-series.

The series continues it’s lampooning of the Hollywood elite upper class and the art of making movies and surviving in such a world as $5000 boots are nothing. Messing brings Molly to life as a woman shunned from her previous life and looking for something new and independent, a way to make a name for herself and not just as an ex-wife of a Hollywood big timer. She brings the right balance of comedy and drama to the role, where appropriate, which is helped by a script that produces a few laugh-out-loud moments, but overall keeps things more sly than coming right out and forcing an applause light to blink.

The episode sets in motion a few different sub-plots and B-story lines for the secondary characters, the most notable is Chris Diamantopoulos’ Rodney who is hired as an interior designer for a big star and immediately begins crushing on him. Sure he’s the token gay guy in the ensemble, but he steals most of the scenes he’s in.

Newcomers to the show are suggested to pick up the mini-series on DVD and give it a go before diving into the series as to not be too lost on whom these characters are and why we find them where we do. Fans of the mini-series are sure to latch right back on where they left off, and it isn’t a terrible thing to do.

At the end of last season back in the beginning of 2008 we last left Psych with Shawn opening the door to be greeted by his unseen mother. Similar to the excellent casting of Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) as Gus’ parents in the mid-second season premiere, Shawn’s mother is played by the very capable Cybill Shepherd, a psychologist who arrives in Santa Barbara to talk to some police offices, funny enough, Detective Lassiter, oblivious to her relation to the much maligned Spencer.

The third season sticks with the show’s procedural pace, although the case plays second fiddle for once with the characters taking center stage. More surprising is the episode’s reliance on actual character drama rather than comedic timing, as has been the show’s staple. The third season premiere was written by show creator Steve Franks and propels a lot of information that shifts the show’s dynamic into the relationship between Shawn and his father.

The B-story, as mentioned above, is the actual case that Psych takes on for one of Gus’ bosses at the pharmaceutical company. The boss in question is played wonderfully by Christopher McDonald who basically plays Shooter McGavin as the head of a drug company. His description of Dutch hot chocolate is perfect for a few laughs. Over all the story’s big twist ending is unseen, but not very surprising considering the context and circumstances, however it is entertaining.

Lassiter and O’Hara are barely in the episode, although the flashback to the mid-1990’s and seeing Shawn as a rebelling teenager (complete with Kurt Cobain’s wardrobe and hair) and Lassiter as a bumbling, rookie desk clerk do provide a few laughs. More is spoken about Lassiter’s estranged wife and their pending divorce with the knowledge we’ll finally meet her later in the season, something that should be fun to watch.

Psych comes out of the gate swinging with the introduction of Shawn’s mom and the paradigm shift between Henry (Corbin Bernsen) and Shawn (James Roday), and Gus’ new found independence at his day job while continuing to work with Shawn. The rest of the season looks to be set up pretty wonderfully, and while not the show’s strongest episode by any means, it certainly keeps the trademark sense of humor with a light dusting of drama for good measure.

USA Network’s Burn Notice took the summer by storm last year combining the elements of a procedural, with the snark of Gil Grissom on CSI, and a comedic bite rolled into serious stories. The show excelled at making a name for itself with its overall mythology on why Michael Westen was burned and how he was going to save himself from being trapped in Miami forever. In the final episodes of season one we are introduced to bigger players in the game, including the unseen Carla (Tricia Helfer) who beings manipulating Michael from the very start of this episode. Her motives aren’t known beyond Michael driving into the back of a trailer and emerging with two dead bodies and a tied up security consultant to work with.

While it looked like the season finale was going to change up the show’s formula, season two eventually finds Michael back in Miami performing a job for Carla in order to meet her and find out what is going on. Carla, as we’ve known for some time, is played by Tricia Helfer, assuming yet another villainous role after her run as Six on the Peabody-winning Battlestar Galactica. Although she is in the episode for less than a minute, her presence (and beauty) alone make her stand out and give a face to the previously ambiguous element behind the show’s burn notice.

Westen finds himself needing to help a security consultant who the syndicate (a cool name we’re giving to the people manipulating Westen) has taken his family hostage. The target is a private security firm (aka mercenaries) with data the syndicate wants. When we finally get to see the data it makes no sense to any of our main characters, but its obvious there’s a lot of wheels turning here. There’s a grand aura behind this season with many of the cogs in the wheel beginning to sync up into something bigger, which should make the next few months fun avoiding the heat on Thursday nights.

The season does start a little low key, especially with the return to form no more than five minutes into the season premiere. Not that this is a bad thing, as previously stated Burn Notice‘s biggest advantage over other procedurals is that you forget it IS a procedural at heart, with each episode focusing on the relationship between Michael and Fiona, Michael and Sam, Michael and his mom, throwing in a client, a bad guy, Michael with a funny accent, and ending with the bad guy getting his due in a clever manner. While some shows have strived to change up the formula each and every season, My Name is Earl comes to mind, to mixed results, Burn Notice stays true to what made it fun in the first place.

Over the last few years USA Network has launched some of the best shows on cable, if not TV in general, culminating with last year’s successful introduction of Burn Notice and the continued success of the Emmy-winning Monk and ever watchable Psych, and now they introduce us to a new character, Mary Shannon in In Plain Sight, a show with a touch of flair, but still needing to find a unique voice.


The series stars Mary McCormack (1408) as your standard tough, strong female lead who does things her own way, like following a guy into a men’s restroom for questioning, then making fun of his penis size and driving away in a Ford POS. The problem with the whole character is you’ve seen this before, you’ve seen this show before, and while CBS is channeling Psych in the upcoming The Mentalist, USA seems to be channeling years of procedurals for Sight.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot to like here, the show is presented as a dramedy with Shannon participating in a healthy dose of self-depreciating humor, and some well timed wit to keep things fresh, and while it’s a good idea to balance time between Mary’s life as a US Marshal working in the Witness Protection Program and her home life with a spaced-out mom and vengeful sister, the pilot episode doesn’t set this up as well as it could, focusing too much on the family and not enough on the case at hand.


Granted this is a pilot, and pilot’s usually rush through everything to show you what the show will be like for the next 13 or 22 episodes, but each aspect of the show comes up a bit shallow when both tried to cram into 65 minutes.

Notable aspects of the pilot include some great interrogation scenes with a suspect pointing out what ever guy was thinking, “wow cleavage,” and, as mentioned earlier, some great writing in parts, but overall the script is a bit lazy, resting on the laurels of the genre rather than trying something new (if there’s anything left new out there).


Seeds of the season have been planted with Mary’s sister, Brandi (Nichole Hiltz), stowing what looks to be a couple million dollars worth of nose candy in her suitcase, and an on-again, off-again, its-complicated love affair with Rafael (Cristián de la Fuente), but we’ll have to see how those play out over the next couple of episodes and see if the show can click into something we haven’t seen before.

While the pilot may not be a solid indication of where the show will eventually lead this season, it does set up the two contrasting worlds of Mary Shannon’s life we’ll be exploring, and while we’ve been here before, the parts of the show that come together well make a returned visit an almost certainty.

Before Psych returns for its second season in January on USA, the fake psychic, real detectives have to spread some holiday cheer in a very special Christmas episode focusing on the murder of a grumpy old man, but its who the suspects turn out to be that hits close to home.

Starting well enough, the Gusters invite Shawn (James Roday) and his dad (Corbin Bernsen) to dinner for the holidays, but after caroling turns up a dead body staged to look like a suicide Gus and Shawn take on the case to prove to Gus’ overbearing parents that Gus has really grown up, and that Shawn isn’t a negative influence.


Credit to the casting director of this episode for bringing in Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) in as Gus’ parents who want to protect their soon so badly from the world that they pull Gus’ nursing home bound grandma to look over the 29 year old when they are both arrested as lead suspects in the case. This isn’t much of a spoiler as most of the episodes running time is Shawn and Gus’ attempts at clearing the elder Gusters of any wrong-doing.

In typical, albeit creatively funny, Pysch fashion the investigation takes numerous dead ends before locating the killer and ousting them in front of a large group with the customary “psychic channeling” Roday’s character is so well known for on the show.


Not to leave the holidays behind, there’s a B-storyline focusing on O’Hara (Maggie Lawson) inviting the snow globe hating Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) for dinner with her family, only to realize that the overzealous Lassie ends up being loathed. The B-story provides something for the two characters to do besides working on the case; however they are more out of the loop than usual in this episode and their story is forgettable at best.

Other than the Christmas theme to set up Shawn having dinner with the Gusters there isn’t anything special about this episode other than to let the viewer new that new episodes are coming in just a few short weeks (something everyone needs in this strike afflicted world). The story is thin (as usual) but it’s the characters that really get you involved with the show, and as the rapport between the four principles increases the comedy flows much easier and you’ll find that you are coming back week after week for more.

The Starter Wife, a limited run mini-series, starring Debra Messing and premiering Thursday, May 31 on USA Network is an adaptation of the New York Times bestseller of the same name by Gigi Levangie Grazer. The series takes a cynical look at the Hollywood underbelly and social circle memberships which are vied for by all based on who you are and who you’re married to and how divorce in this life could mean your end, if you let it.

The adaptation is a great melding of drama mixed with clever writing creating a black comedy tone throughout including a forecasting dream Molly Kagan taking place on the yellow-brick road complete with an evil wizard in the form of Molly’s soon-to-be-ex Kenny (Peter Jacobson). There’s definitely some substance to the comedy here with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments propelled by Messing’s abilities.

Debra Messing is the real star of the series in the scenes USA provided for preview as her experience in comedy, starring in Will & Grace, truly shines her as she embodies the role of Molly and her never falter, keep-your-head-up mentality as she struggles with the reality that she is, in fact, a starter wife and sees her life disappear around her. This doesn’t’ stop her, however, from living.

The supporting cast also performs admirably including Joe Mantegna, Judy Davis, and Miranda Otto among others in the little bits available for preview. Unfortunately the screener provided doesn’t show a wide range of the supporting characters, instead focusing on Messing’s centerpiece.

It seems almost unheard of, after reading the premise of the series, that a twentysomething male editor would find something to like in The Starter Wife, but the script is tight and if the scenes previewed are any indication, the six-hour series has a lot to offer both sexes.

The Starter Wife premieres Thursday, May 31 at 9/8c on USA Network.

Returning for the second half of its first season is USA‘s Psych, the story of Shawn Spencer (James Roday), a twentysomething with a gift for perception who convinces the Santa Barbara Police Department that he’s a psychic solving cases from missing persons to murders in the quiet coastal town. The first season of the series was a bright spot at the end of the summer season balancing a great level of humor along with the standard drama of a detective show, much akin to USA‘s Monk.

As the series returns January 19th for a second run the show brings back the familiar scenarios in unfamiliar circumstances as Shawn and his childhood friend Gus (Dule Hill) strive to make their town a safer place. The subtly of the shows humor is not lost as sight gags blend well with wordplay. The second season premiere also keeps the routine of flashing back to Shawn’s childhood in a situation that impacts the outcome of the crime in some way, usually for the better.

Much to the dismay of the police department, Shawn continues to show them up in many of the cases they are assigned as Detective Lassiter (Timonthy Omundson) fails to believe Shawn’s “gift” at every turn while his open-minded partner Juliet O-Hara (Maggie Lawson). Providing additional foil for Shawn’s antics is his father, a perfectly cast Corbin Bernsen still channeling Roger Dorn from Major League.

When I reviewed the first part of the season last summer I did question whether the series would have enough steam to keep up the farce that Shawn was a psychic long enough to make it hold up over time, but as the season went on, and now into the new batch of episodes, Psych seems to be hitting its stride with fun stories, and excellent dose of humor making the show a pleasure to watch.

This run’s debut, “Forget Me Not”, guest stars Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s Show) as a former police captain attempting to tie a twenty year old cold case to a recent mountain lion mauling. In the typical Psych fashion things aren’t always as they seem, and a series of misadventures and predicaments await our heroes in locating the true killer. What more could you ask from an entertaining Friday night program?

Psych’s first season continues Friday, January 19 on USA. Check your local listings for time an appropriate channel.