Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
Trophy Wife is a show about a reformed party girl who marries an older man with two ex-wives and three kids.
What's the most important attribute for a comedy? If it's funny. The only question a comedy has to really answer: will it make me laugh? Don't get me wrong: a great comedy will be funny and have great characters, strong plots, interesting themes, and other elements. It's just that those other attributes don't really matter unless the show is able to make people laugh. The pilot for Trophy Wife is so busy setting up it's premise, the characters, and their relationships that it largely forgets to make me laugh. Oh, there were moments: the sassy Asian kid in the car, the hamster sub-plot, and the closing tag all made me laugh. The rest of the pilot? It was so busy having to establish everything that there was very little room for the comedy to actually breathe. There was simply a lot going on that a lot of the jokes got lost. The ones that didn't largely fell flat. In other words, Trophy Wife suffers a lot of problems that comedy pilots suffer: trying to maintain a balance between being funny and introducing the viewer into the world. The pilot for Trophy Wife isn't very funny but there is a lot of hope that future episodes will be able to fix this. The closing tag perhaps show what the series is capable of when it doesn't have to deal with exposition: forcing Jackie to find a hide-away key was simply a comedic stroke of genius. So there is every reason to believe that Trophy Wife will figure out the comedy part as it goes through it's growing pains. So, the answer is that Trophy Wife isn't funny....yet. So what about everything else? Trophy Wife sets up an interesting dynamic that should lead to a strong series. In fact, it's a bit surprising that Trophy Wife isn't on the Wednesday Night Comedy Block considering how it's the most likely to succeed of the ABC new comedies. The Goldbergs has it's own set of issues that could potentially hold it back while Back in the Game's premise is a tougher sell. Trophy Wife, on the other hand, has an easy premise and it's issues are less likely to hold it back. Please note that most likely to succeed is a guessing game at best: Trophy Wife might end up failing partially because it's growing period is going to be rough. There is no doubt in my mind this show is going to take a while to figure things out and that might cost it the early ratings it needs to survive.
What I think is the most interesting part about Trophy Wife is the dynamic of the wives. Malin Akerman plays Kate. Kate is a reformed party girl who wants to establish her place within the family beyond being just a trophy wife. She's in love with Pete, wants to help raise the kids, and seeks to be accepted into the family. She's met by three opposing factors: Dr. Diane Buckley, Jackie, and the kids themselves. The kids basically resist her and the two opposing personalities of the two ex-wives clash with each other and with Kate. Dr. Diane is a no-nonsense woman who is very critical of failure. Jackie is a new-age person who is more about the emotional approach. The two are opposites which by itself creates a classic dynamic structure: two opposites trying to guide Pete into their path. When you add Kate, the dynamic becomes more compelling and interesting. Suddenly you have a new force who wants to be important but who clashes with both of them. Kate can't possible live up to Dr. Diane's insane standards but she's more grounded than Jackie. The realm of conflict is strong. As for the kids? They all present their own challenges that undermine her. It is this dynamic that helps set Trophy Wife apart from the other family comedies out there. It is indeed what might drive it to be the strongest of the new ABC comedies this fall. Of course, setting up the dynamic is partially why the pilot isn't that funny. The next few episodes will have to find ways to get the most out of the dynamic. Once the show has it figured out, it should in theory be a laugh riot. So the core conflict creator within Trophy Wife is strong.
Trophy Wife is an ensemble comedy built around Malin Akerman. Kate Harrison is a protagonist that should be relatable due to her desire to fit in and prove herself. The last two points are something that anybody could not only understand but root for. She might have to earn her place in the family but there are remnants of who she used to be due to her best friend. This creates a more complex character than if she had completely given up her life to be a mother. One of the things the pilot gets right is that it builds everyone's place in the show around her rather than just placing them into the universe with little regard. For instance, she's married to Pete. Bradley Whiford is a great actor and he makes Pete work. Pete is basically a smart husband who likes to have fun. In many ways you can define his character by who he married. His first ex-wife represents his intelligence, his second his emotional side, and his third is sort-of a combination between the two. His first ex-wife, Diane Buckley, is played wonderfully by Marcia Gay Harden. Buckley might have a soft side but she likes to present a tough exterior. Michaela Watkins plays the other ex-wife, Jackie Fisher. The two-wives might be connected to Kate through Pete but it's their dynamic with the protagonist that really helps establish their actual role in the universe. The two are going to butt heads with each other and with Kate. The final adult character is Kate's best friend and support system away from the family, Meg Gomez. It's nice to see Natalie Morales on a series regular role as she's a good actress. Meg is the typical best friend who helps keep Kate attached to her old life.
All of the kids are also forming the basis of their relationship with Kate. Hillary Harrison (played by Once Upon a Time's brilliant Bailee Madison) is the typical teenager. She's not interested in being friends with Kate at first but she does take a story from Kate as inspiration to smuggle vodka through water bottles. Her non-interested nature is a great way to establish conflict with Kate. Her brother, Warren, is a childish dork who is now getting interesting in dating girls. This combination should lead to some good comedy but it presents room for misunderstanding between Kate and him. The final character, Bert, is an adopted Asian kid with a lot of sass. Overall, the kids are all forming their own unique relationships with Kate. They all therefore form a dynamic not only amongst themselves, their biological parents, but with the protagonist as well. Now, granted, they still need to be developed more but this is only the pilot.
Overall, Trophy Wife is a show that has a very strong dynamic. The two ex-wives and the three kids promise to create a lot of conflict that should be ripe for comedy. The characters and premise are strong. At the same time, Trophy Wife is still going to be undergoing some growing pains as the writers figure out how to make the dynamic work. At this point, I can't recommend Trophy Wife because it's simply not funny enough. At the same time, I won't dissuade anyone from checking it out because it has the potential to become a consistently funny show.
The voice-over narration is unnecessary and annoying.