Tuesday , April 23 2024
A look at ABC's new sitcom about pregnancy.

TV Review: Notes from the Underbelly

I’m going to try and be nice here, soft spoken, and not overly rude. It’s hard because what I have to discuss is just dreadfully bad, but I’m going to try anyway. 

Of the many shows I watched last night, one of them was Notes from the Underbelly. If I was being mean I’d call this an “alleged sitcom,” but as I’m trying not to be mean I’ll say “ABC’s brand new sitcom that started airing last night.” The story revolves around a couple, Lauren (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Andrew (Peter Cambor), who have decided to have a baby. Lauren and Andrew are a self-centered couple living in Los Angeles with incredibly self-centered friends and are wholly and completely unlikable. Andrew is slightly less unlikable than Lauren, but mostly that’s because he seems like your average self-centered individual instead of incredibly self-centered like his wife. 

Simply put, these people should not be having kids. Their married couple friends, Julie (Melanie Deanne Moore) and Eric (Sunkrish Bala), who are incredibly pregnant, probably also shouldn’t be having kids. Julie and Eric seem like they’re having them for the right reasons, whereas I don’t believe for a second that Lauren and Andrew aren’t simply having children because 1) it’s trendy and 2) they want to be done with having children in time to have a nice retirement. 

Lauren and Andrew also have a couple of single friends, Danny (Michael Weaver) and Cooper (Rachel Harris). These two characters are even more adolescent than Lauren and Andrew. Their only purpose over the course of last night’s two episodes was to make the main characters seem more well-grounded and adult-like. It didn’t work — all the characters depicted seemed far too juvenile.   

It was referenced several times during the course of last night’s back-to-back episodes that they are a couple in their early 30s and that these days that’s equivalent to what being in your 20s was years ago. This is really just an argument for self-centeredness and increasing the amount of time one can have “youthful indiscretions” rather than simply being acknowledged as being a bad person. I’m not against negative shows, and I’m certainly not against negative characters. However, Lauren and Andrew, as depicted in Notes from the Underbelly, aren’t caricatures, they aren’t over the top, they seem to actually represent someone’s view of where our society is, and that to state at the same time that where we are (self-centered and perpetually juvenile) is acceptable. 

The entire concept for the show (base on Risa Green’s novel of the same name) is actually a good one: let’s follow a couple from the point where they decide to have a child through pregnancy and everything that follows. The problem is that the concept stopped growing at that point. The development of the show was completely arrested once the creator, Stacey Traub, and the rest of the producers got that far into it. Yet, it’s a midseason replacement, so clearly there ought to have been time to consider what was being put in front of the camera. But, no, someone seems to have yanked this half-formed idea out of the mind of its creator and thrown it up onto the screen in order to see whether it could thrive on its own. I can’t imagine that the show can possibly have an extended life, it doesn’t seem as though during it’s development cycle enough time or care was put into bringing forth a healthy, viable entity. 

For a while, ABC had intended to double-run episodes of Notes from the Underbelly at 10pm, out of Grey’s Anatomy. Rather than pursuing this idea, burning off all the new episodes in doubletime, and putting us all out of our misery quickly, they will, after last night’s double-run, move the show to Wednesdays at 8:30pm, airing out of According to Jim. I would recommend not following it to that time period, but everyone gets to make their own decisions in this world.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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