"Miss Guided" / Stacey Nosek
TV Reviews | March 25, 2008 | Comments ()
One thing that drives me bannaners is this whole trend of “using the prefix mis- to generate an ironic pun” business you see a lot these days. Off the top of my head: we’ve had “Miss Match,” several incarnations of the dreadful “Miss Understood,” and now “Miss Guided.” And although I inwardly groaned when I heard the title for “Miss Guided” — a show about a quirky guidance high school guidance counselor — I was willing to give it a reprieve and not judge the book by its punny, clichéd cover, because: squee! Judy Greer! As many a fan of “Arrested Development” can probably identify, my love for Judy Greer knows no bounds, thanks to her hilariously scene stealing role of Kitty Sanchez. Greer’s got incredible comedic timing and on-screen charisma, and I was elated to hear she was finally, and deservedly, getting her own starring vehicle.
And it’s kind of a perfect vehicle, at that. Greer plays the fabulously nerdily named Becky Freeley, former teenage dweeb (not to mention, member of the Milli Vanilli fan club) who returns to her high school alma mater as a guidance counselor. Greer’s gawky good looks and awkward self-awareness lend themselves perfectly to the role of the bubbly, yet nebbish former geek. Although Becky loves her job working with her teenage students with a kind of a tragic optimism, her already fragile self-esteem takes a blow when the school hires another former student, popular girl Lisa Germain, (ex “Baywatch” babe Brooke Burns) to head the English department and coach the cheerleading squad. Making things even more humiliating for the plucky guidance counselor is the fact that back in the day Lisa dated Becky’s crush, and in present day begins advancing in on her current crush, inept Spanish teacher Tim (Kristoffer Polaha).
Rounding out the cast are Earl Billings as the indifferent, deadpan Principal Huffy; and Chris Parnell, who brings his trademark clueless arrogance to Bruce, the Vice Principal. (Side note: I watched last Thursday’s back-to-back episodes with my sister, and both of us just kept referring to Parnell’s character as “Doctor Spaceman.”) And much like on “30 Rock,” here Parnell also totally steals whatever scene he’s in, as the meatheaded, wannabe threatening disciplinarian who enjoys recruiting members of the student body as his butlers/henchmen. But as much of a joy as Greer and Parnell are to watch, the love interest Tim is a bit Blandy McDumbShit for my taste, and Brooke Burns has the tendency to be just downright annoying (and not merely in the way her character is intended to be annoying). So unfortunately both of those characters leave me feeling rather “meh” so far, but I’m hoping maybe they’ll be fleshed out a bit more over time. A bummer though, considering the potential it had for being an overall fantastic ensemble.
Filmed in a single-camera format, “Miss Guided” splices multi character dialogue scenes with candid bits where the characters break the fourth wall, a la “Malcolm in the Middle.” It felt somewhat forced and unnatural at first, but after it grew on me some of the funnier jokes ended up coming from these bits, not to mention it gives Greer an opportunity to mug for the camera. I particularly liked a bit in the pilot episode when Tim explains how he got the gig as Spanish teacher after the old Spanish teacher was fired when the school raided his computer; it cuts to the Spanish speaking janitor who explains that they offered him the job first, but he didn’t want anyone “poking around on his hard drive.” Also, another plus or minus, depending how you want to look at it, “Miss Guided” is executive produced by Ashton Kutcher. Personally I can’t fucking stand Mr. Demi Moore, but luckily his influence on the series so far doesn’t appear to be exceptionally heavy-handed, unless of course you count that it means we have to suffer through cameos of Kutcher himself — already on the second episode (and OK, maybe he wasn’t so bad) — plus a forthcoming stint by his step-daughter (gahhhh!) Rumer Willis. But hopefully, if the series lasts through mid-season, I expect even these guest appearances to eventually trickle off.
After having seen the first three episodes of “Miss Guided” (which ABC burned off in the premiere week) one thing I really liked about the pilot that didn’t follow through to the other two episodes were brief flashback sequences, which gave the pilot kind of a “Romy and Michelle” vibe. Given Greer’s knack for self-deprecating humor, I’m hoping they’ll try to milk more out of these flashbacks in future episodes (although, I wouldn’t count on it). Ultimately, “Miss Guided” probably will never be a great show. But so far it’s pretty funny-cute, entertaining, and it’s worth it — if nothing else — just to get to watch Judy Greer light up my television screen again. I guess you really could equate it on a margarita made in your mouth: mostly sweet, a bit salty, and fun probably best enjoyed in moderation.
“Miss Guided” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.
Stacey Nosek is the world’s most articulate idiot, and a television columnist for Pajiba. You can also find her ripping on celebrities at Webster’s Is My Bitch.