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TV Review: Jake In Progress

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The press leading up to last night’s second season premiere of Jake in Progress spoke of how the show was being retooled. Those changes were noticeable from the opening scene.

We find Jake (John Stamos) in the midst of a nightmare. The fiance that left him at the alter three years earlier is there in her wedding dress, chiding him about how he can’t commit and how she’s moving on and marrying another. Best friend Adrian (Ian Gomez) and his wife, as well as his other friend Patrick (Rick Hoffman), are all in the dream confirming Annie’s claim that he is not ready to commit.

I thought the whole dream sequence was carried out very well; Stamos shines bright in the way he carried off the comedic lines. It also served the purpose of giving the character a vulnerable side, though Jake steadfastly tries to deny he was flirting with the caterer or that he is unable to commit, it is obvious this is the case.

Commenting about the changes made to the Jake In Progress character, Stamos said:

It’s all to create a more vulnerable character, someone who’s more approachable and somebody you feel for more than this slick guy who last year was getting a different girl each week. (TV Guide Online)

That vulnerability is momentarily set aside when he wakes from the nightmare to a woman in his bed asking “Who’s Annie?” and another knocking on the door with breakfast. We see a brief return of the slick Jake of last season, as he maneuvers the ladies and turns on the charm to coyly convince the woman at the door he is too sick for companionship. When she insists he keeps the bagels, he turns around and tells the other he had ordered breakfast in bed.

In watching this scene, I can see why they are making attempts to move the character away from this. There are very few redeeming qualities in a guy who can casually move from one to the other with no guilt, remorse, or consequence. The following scenes where Jake progresses in leaps and bounds were much more enjoyable.

After a lunch with friends who reinforce the idea he needs to move on from the devastating loss of his fiance, Jake goes through the hotel room he lives in and boxes up all her photographs, the suits he bought because she liked them, and all other memories of her. The most touching moment of the scene is when he replays an answering machine tape to hear her voice saying how anxious she is for their wedding day, and then painfully erase the tape. It is in this Jake that the layers of the character slowly begin to reveal themselves, and it is this Jake that I am looking forward to watching grow over the course of this season.

In a not so surprising turn of events, after he donates the boxes to charity, Annie re-appears at his door asking for her grandfather’s watch so she can give it to her current fiance. Again the shallow Jake momentarily re-emerges as he feigns not even remembering the watch she is talking about.

As Annie walks through the room and despairingly picks at Jake, I sense we are getting a first glimpse of what has made him so insecure. It would appear that the woman he is still hung up on has a history of cutting him down and fostering the insecurities. The character regresses in her presence and becomes desperate to gain her approval and praise, giving Jake even more layers to enjoy and examine.

Of course Jake’s new mission is to re-coup the watch. After unsuccessfully trying the charity, he discovers his friend Patrick has claimed the watch as well as one of his suits. In a comedic rough and tumble exchange he gets the watch and calls Annie. Over dinner, where once again Jake’s manipulation begins to surface, we see there is still an attraction and good deal of unfinished business between two.

It has been said this season is going to focus on that unfinished business, and I think this is a good move by the powers that be at Jake In Progress. I find it much more interesting to watch these characters sort out what may or may not exist between them then to watch a slick playboy type character trollop from woman to woman week to week.

Stamos said:

We’ve found ways to make Jake more vulnerable and accessible this season, mainly by giving him one woman to deal with. The dealings with the ex-fiance play throughout the 13 episodes, and it’s all high-concept, romantic-comedy stuff. We also have a new writing staff, and we’ve redesigned the sets and the wardrobe. It’s soup to nuts, as they say. (Newsday.com)

The secondary storyline focused on Jake’s boss, Naomi (Wendie Malick), being reluctantly released from the hospital with her new baby. The character we’ve come to know as hard as nails and in control of her life is shaken to her very foundation with the fear of being sent home to care for this child alone. The scenes in which she is being wheeled to the curb, only to return to accost the doctor as he delivers another baby, as well as an exchange with Jake when he comes to make sure she really leaves the hospital, are comedic and touching. The emotions are so identifiable that, during a commercial break, my best friend called to inform me her husband was rolling in laughter and tears as he was sure he was watching on TV what would be their departure from the hospital when they have a child.

In general, it was obvious that this first episode of the second season was, first and foremost, a set up of what is to come on Jake In Progress. I’m quite honestly looking forward watching the show and the character grow.

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