Accidentally on Purpose Needs More Laughs; Less Laughter Track

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Picture it: a pretty, lean lady nearing her fifth decade splits from her rich but marriage-phobe-boss-slash-beau and rebounds onto the genitals of fecund, financial insolvent twenty-two year old, Zack. Can you guess what happens next? Several goes on her boy toy later and we’re in a bathroom watching pretty woman Billie, her devilish best friend Olivia (Ugly Betty’s Ashley Jensen) and angelic sister Abby gabble nervously as a pregnancy test brews. Naturally, it turns baby coloured, and so we have our clichéd sitcom set up. Almost.

The second chapter of Accidentally on Purpose's pilot (which airs at 10pm on Thursday, June 17, on E4) sees Billie room up with sous chef to a sous chef, Zack, when he loses his bed in a grimy flat he shares with unwashed pals. Incidentally, Billie’s a movie critic on a small San Francisco rag. So you’ll have to suspend your disbelief from the Golden Gate Bridge when you find out that she owns a plush, spacious two-bed apartment, conveniently big enough for her new flatmate to have his own room, even he does paint it purple with a baby-ready bear motif.

Now, on to the serious business of laughs. A sitcom doesn’t work without them, and Accidentally On Purpose just about earns that all-important second syllable. The pilot is funny in places but the writing is mostly lazy and the jokes are recycled from similar, older shows. Plus it sports an insufferable laughter track (can you imagine if tragedy-heavy drama was overlaid with the sound of sobbing?). Optimistically, though, we looked in on some later episodes and it does get a little slicker and the one-liners become more frequent and refined.

Billie, our impulsive lead (played by Jenna Elfman), gives her lines snap while her baby’s daddy (Jon Foster) is sweet, handsome but boring, so jokes aren’t often wasted on him. The show’s saviour is Nicolas White, who plays Zack’s alpha-layabout sidekick, Davis. If you’re still watching by episode three, no doubt you’ll be tuning in for his slacker wit. He’s like a bearded, druggie Chandler with a dash of Howard from Big Bang. Billie’s girlfriends are what really let the show down. Jenson is shamefully dull and under-developed while the sister character is only there to make Billie question her decisions, then do what she wants regardless.

This incongruous cast are glued together by a foetus, which will make its debut in the series finale. And that’s all you’re getting because last month CBS decided it wasn’t worth a second series. They have a point.

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