Most of the time I watch a pilot because I’m very fond of the creator, or the leading actor, but this is a rare case that I’m reviewing it because of the third billed actor, a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Indeed before watching it I didn’t even know this was a potential spin off from the much loved Micheal J. Fox sitcom Family Ties, with the character Nick Moore (Scott Valentine) heading off to New York to try and become a famous artist.
I should have guessed that Family Ties was an influence though given that it has elements of “A Very Special Episode” syndrome even in the pilot. Sure there’s a daft plot where Nick tries to get a job at the book store where his sister Marlene (Kristine Sutherland, best known as Buffy’s Mum) works, and which is managed by Rachel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), while he tries to make it as an artist, but there’s also a very, very tedious subplot with Marlene’s son Louis.
Initially Louis seems to be a sassy kid who likes to insult Nick a lot and who gets some vaguely amusing lines, so I didn’t have a problem with his inclusion in the show, but once Marlene announces that she’s going to get engaged to Bob he throws a tantrum and chains himself to his desk at school. Worse yet is when Nick tries to help out Marlene blames him for Louis’ actions, and it’s not until the end of the episode when Louis comes clean and Marlene is forced to apologise.
Said ending is a overly sentimental and tiresome moment, and which comes complete with a cringeworthy freeze frame ending, Louis’ plot in general is the kind of thing that you don’t really get in sitcoms any more, of at least if you do it’s handled in a funny way rather than the overtly serious manner it’s dealt with here. Which is a shame as the other half of the sitcom with Rachel, Nick and Marlene working at the book store is actually pretty decent.
On that front it probably won’t come as a huge surprise that Louis-Dreyfus gets all of the best lines, her store manager is not a million miles away Elaine as she’s a sometimes angry, acerbic character, and one who is shockingly turned on by how handsome Nick is despite being aware that’s he’s not the brightest bulb in the box, commenting “You are the antithesis of a person who should work in a book store, you are the Anti-Clerk”, but she gives him the job anyway just because he’s so sexy. She’s also quite brutal to the customers at a signing by an author who’s written about depression, saying to one “Excuse me, I’m sorry, but if you’re going to climb the ladder I’m going to have to take your tie” which isn’t exactly the subtlest joke ever but it’s pretty funny in context.
The sentimental aspects of the sitcom were probably going to be a large part of it given that it’s an eighties sitcom though, and even despite a couple of amusing moments with Louis-Dreyfus as a whole it’s really nothing that special, with the leading man being rather bland and nothing-y. So the world is certainly not a bleaker place due to the series not existing, and possibly even the opposite might apply as if it had been a success it might have prevented Louis-Dreyfus from starring in Seinfeld a few years later.
You can watch the pilot on youtube here.