NBC's "M.Y.O.B." debuts this week D.O.A.
A summer premiere is telling, but not definitive. Remember, "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" was a summer series tryout last August.
Here's the sure sign "M.Y.O.B." won't last: One of the show's stars, Lauren Graham, has been announced as the lead actress in The WB fall series "Gilmore Girls."
It's sort of too bad. "M.Y.O.B." is too abrasive to last, but it's easily more interesting television than, say, "Daddio."
If you've seen the 1998 film "The Opposite of Sex," you're well prepared for "M.Y.O.B." Both were created and written by Don Roos, both focus on cold-hearted, acerbic teen-age girls and both feature their lead characters talking directly to the audience in voice-over narration.
Christina Ricci starred as a trampy teen in "Opposite of Sex" and newcomer Katharine Towne plays a similar part in this series. Towne is Riley Veatch, a manipulative, self-centered 16-year-old who claims to have seen-it-all, done-it-all.
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When: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on NBC.
Starring: Katharine Towne, Lauren Graham
"Don't worry, this isn't a TV movie where I end up murdered and my mom has to pose as a hooker to track down my killer," Riley narrates as viewers see her prepare to get in a car with a stranger. "First of all, I don't die, and second of all, from what they tell me about my mom, she wouldn't have to pose."
In Tuesday's premiere, Riley travels to a small California town searching for her biological mother. Instead she finds Opal Brown (Graham), who may or may not be Riley's aunt. Opal works as a high school administrator. She's an uptight, self-righteous prude; Riley's polar opposite.
Riley schemes to win Opal the job of school principal, then ends up living with friendless Opal until a foster family can be found. In the meantime - the short duration of this series - the pair form an uneasy, odd couple-like bond.
"M.Y.O.B." - short for "Mind Your Own Business" - exists in a self-conscious world where Riley comments on her own TV show, blaming network time restrictions for her inability to continue on a tangent she's begun.
"We don't have time to get into all that, not with all the ads for 'Just Shoot Me' they want to squeeze in here, which is why I would have preferred cable, but, whatever," Riley says.
Creator/writer Roos comes up with clever dialogue, even if it's sometimes a little too precious, like the constant references to NBC's "Law & Order." At least the show sounds like no other.
Shot on location with a single camera, "M.Y.O.B." has the look and feel of a mini-movie. But by the second episode, the show already seems stuck in a plot rut: Opal has a problem, Riley connives a way to solve it as she finds clever ways to slam everyone she encounters.
Nasty as Riley is, I get a perverse thrill out of watching her assaults. But I think I'll tire of her quickly. Her attitude is refreshingly snarky at first, but grows tiresome.
Surely the girl must care about something or someone other than her own self-interest? Evidently not, judging by the first two episodes and Riley's declaration, "There's only one thing better than getting what you want: Getting what you want and pissing someone off at the same time."
She's really not a nice girl.
Both lead actresses seem well cast. Towne, especially, brings a naturally jaded ennui to her part. You get the sense she didn't have to stretch much to play Riley.
Like Tony Soprano, Riley is an anti-hero, but it's unlikely the audience will warm to her the way they took to Tony. He's a softy at heart, she's a rhymes-with-witch.
Occasionally Riley shows glimpses of kindness towards Opal, but for the most part she remains heartless. And that's probably why NBC has so little faith in this intriguing, but frigid and cheerless comedy.