NBC”s “Imagine That” is the latest star vehicle to hit the air an ominous portent for this show, seeing as every other sitcom featuring an established star made for this season has already been canceled, (Jason Alexander”s “The Bob Patterson Show,” anyone?). Also, “Imagine That” being a midseason replacement, which are usually shows that the network execs deemed were not as good as the shows that debuted (and cancelled) in October, does not bode well. However, unlike other shows, “Imagine” features someone who has actual comedic talent: Hank Azaria, renowned for his work on “The Simpsons” and “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Of course, he”s also infamous for his failures (“Godzilla,” “Mystery Men,” his marriage to Helen Hunt). How does this show rate amongst the rest of Azaria”s body of work as well as the rest of the television landscape?
For a midseason replacement, this show is rather promising. Azaria plays Josh Miller, a writer on a sketch comedy television show, who”s having marital troubles with his super-driven prosecutor wife Wendy (Jayne Brook, “Chicago Hope”). Both Azaria and Brook seem to know their characters well and already seem to have a decent chemistry as a couple.
The only other writer who gets significant time during the first episode is Kenny Fleck, played by Josh Malina, who is like a slightly cooler version of the character Malina played on “Sports Night.” Hopefully the other two writers, David Pressman”s Kooshman (“Stargate”) and Suzy Nakamura”s Rina Oh (“Timecode”) will get flushed out as the season goes on so far they are just there to fill up space.
Receiving more time during the premiere is Barb Thompson, the show”s neurotic producer who detests her own mother, played by Katey Sagal (“Married With Children”). One of the plot lines of the first show is how Barb steals an idea (hopefully not a recurring theme bosses who take credit for their employee”s ideas isn”t exactly a new idea) of Josh”s about a doing a sketch featuring an Italian “wiseguy” therapist. The idea for this, which probably explains the title of the show, comes to Josh when he and his wife go to see a marriage counselor, and Josh imagines his therapist as a stereotypical Italian mobster.
In the form of eye-candy, there”s former Playboy Playmate Julia Shultz (“Rush Hour 2”), playing another stereotype as Tabitha Applethorpe, Kenny and Josh”s attractive but not too bright assistant. It is unlikely that her character will progress much beyond that of “office hottie,” though.
The premiere is fairly well written, although the laughs are considerably forced in the beginning (if only real people laughed when the canned laughter does those in TV business would be so happy). It remains to be seen, however, if they”ll take one-note characters like Tabitha and Barb and make them multi-dimensional. A show with plotlines based on a few stereotypes and marital problems sounds too much like every other sitcom that gets cancelled with less than a season on the air.