Playing House was not on my radar until a few weeks ago when the call for someone to write a preview for the show was put out to the writers here at Spoiler TV. I haven’t been on great terms with the USA network as of late but was pleasantly surprised to see that they were trying to get into the original scripted comedy game. The name alone invoked a vision of an up to date version of Full House (a childhood favorite of mine) and to tell you the truth, my estimation wasn’t that far off the mark. At least from what I can gather from the first two episodes USA provided.
Playing House stars Lennon Parham as Maggie Caruso and Jessica St. Clair as Emma Crawford. I wasn't familiar with these two leading ladies but apparently they’ve starred together in another show, Best Friends Forever back in 2012 on NBC (apparently if you blinked you missed that show and its run). I like shows that feature females, especially females who are good friends in a healthy adult relationship and not backstabbing hussies who are mentally stuck in high school and border on being frenemies. For years now, I have craved the female version of JD and Turk from Scrubs only to be bombarded with varying incarnations of Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl. Playing House seems well aware of this fact and might just be looking to fill that niche.
The premise of the show is a little predictable, I’ll give you that: Maggie who just happens to be pregnant ends her marriage upon discovering her husband's affair with a woman online, she turns to her best friend Emma for support. In order to help Maggie in her time of need, Emma gives up her successful business in China to return to their hometown of Pinebrook, and help her friend raise her unborn baby.
But what isn't predictable is the writing style. Apparently, most of it is improvised and the best stuff transcribed and then made into script and acted out. I think that is what gives the show a natural, nay, conversational tone. It probably also helps that lead actresses are best friends in real life as well, so they play well off each other.
The pilot was cute and the setup fairly simple. Emma returns home for Maggie’s baby shower and through a very awkward revelation during the baby shower we discover Maggie’s husband has weird fetish and is essentially cheating on her via an odd online relationship. Meanwhile, Emma messes up an important meeting and is ordered to return to Shanghai to fix it. Emma opts not to and offers to stay and raise the baby with Maggie but Maggie is reluctant as Emma has bailed when things got tough on several occasions. But of course in the end Emma stays and she and Emma are about embark on journey with plenty of adventure and hijinks to come.
The second episode is all about Emma and Maggie having brunch with Mark's wife. While that’s going on Mark looks into the robbery of a garden gnome. We learn that Mark proposed to Emma and not only did she say no, she left town and got as far away as she possibly could. Ouch! Also back in high school Emma and Maggie use to make fun of Mark’s wife. They nicknamed her Bird Bones (which is mentioned in the pilot). Mark warns Emma and Maggie not push his “fragile” wife over the edge. Emma and Maggie definitely sell their friendship even harder in this episode as they trade inside jokes and mock people they know/don’t like from afar together.
All in all, these two episodes make me curious about the next eight episodes and I will definitely be checking in on the show from time to time.
BOLO (Be on the Lookout For): Jane Kaczmarek as Emma’s mom in future episodes.
Fun Fact: Playing House is only the second original comedy series for the USA Network
Tasty Tidbit: Both Parham and St. Claire were in the Upright Citizens Brigade.
1x01: Pilot – B-
1x02: Bird Bones – B+
Playing House premieres tonight at 10 pm EDT on USA.