' Cinema Romantico: Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (Pilot)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recap Vomit: Trophy Wife (Pilot)

The mantra put forth near the end of the opening episode of “Trophy Wife” by the married couple at its forefront – Kate and Pete – goes like this: “I don’t know what I’m doing.” She says she doesn’t know what she’s doing and he says he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Often a show’s mantra can be turned around to poke holes in the show itself, but not this time. “Trophy Wife” establishes itself as a fairly evocative illustration of the struggle to raise kids, not knowing precisely how to go about doing it but doing it anyway because do it you must.

Struggling to raise kids, after all, is a staple of the American sitcom. The parents don’t know what they’re doing, the kids take advantage, hijinks ensue. If you went on a date with a Big Four Network exec and opened his/her medicine cabinet (which you ‘never would’) you would find a non-perishable bottle of this very formula. (And a vial of "Forest Rangering With The Stars".) And by no means am I claiming “Trophy Wife” does not heat and serve pre-packaged sitcom tropes. Does a child’s hamster die? Yes. Do the parents set forth on a suburban voyage to purchase a replace (or imposter) hamster? Of course. Yes, Malin Akerman, my Official Cinematic Crush, playing the role of Kate, bumbles into chairs and smacks ice queens on accident with her purse (and fondles her own “grapefruits”) and, sure, a lot of the one-liners feel as if they were found in the sofa cushions.


Yet the show has entirely in its favor this sort of supremely endearing chaotic quality. In a hospital waiting room right near the start it casts two tons of exposition on the audience to get us all caught up with the current situation and it’s never confusing and always entertaining. It just sorta powers through. Let me try to explain here……Kate is Pete’s (Bradley Whitford) wife, yes, but she’s his THIRD wife. Hence, “Trophy Wife.” But the term Trophy Wife is actually misleading (but it does look good on those promo shots accompanied by the hella comely Malin – am I right ABC, you marketing wizards, you). Pete’s not a smug jackanapes scouting for a status symbol. He likes Kate and Kate likes Pete and Kate likes Pete’s kids – a couple with Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and one with Dr. Diane Buckley (Marcia Gay Harden) – but the kids are suspicious of Kate because she’s just the next wife on the spousal assembly line. But Kate doesn’t just want to gossip and sleep and shop and chug vodka – though she does chug vodka, but hang on – and so she gets involved and makes an effort and wants to do right by her step-children and that’s how she ends up chugging vodka. (It all makes sense in its own context.)

Oh, and I’m sure that a stepmother chugging vodka to protect her stepdaughter will likely send some overprotective parents’ group into a hissy fit, but she does what she does for the kid. Everyone here is acting on behalf of the kids. That’s some noble shit, man, and it’s actually different from most sitcoms which prefer to employ the struggle to raise kids as the mere platform for crude jokes and wacky comedy that often comes at the kids' expense (which is ostensibly okay because it’s “not really about the kids"). “Trophy Wife” is intended as a comedy – and it is comedic, and I did laugh (The Diane Buckley Pool, anyone?) – but, more than anything, it’s loving, and I sort of loved this little pilot and this eclectic contemporary clan that clearly has differences that they can clearly put aside for the sake of the children even though the differences clearly remain intact. It’s a little bundle of enjoyable madness, this show.

I felt a like Kate Harrison, tossed into the middle of something, playing catching up, and wanting to play catch up and determined to play catch up, to stay the course. It’s sink or swim for this Trophy Wife, and for “Trophy Wife.” Kate swims. The show swims. I’m swimming. Buoyancy, baby.

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