Comedies about the awkwardness of high school are nothing new, but that doesn't mean that a show centered around teens cannot be both fresh and funny (See: Strangers with Candy and Freaks and Geeks). ABC is hoping that viewers will see past the conventional with Miss Guided, a new sitcom premiering tonight at 10:30 and starring Judy Greer (the hilarious Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development) as Becky, an ex-nerd who returns to high school as a guidance counselor. (The supporting cast includes Chris Parnell as Vice-Principal Bruce Terry and a cameo by executive producer and hunky piece of particle board, Ashton Kutcher.) The show takes a few cues from unconventional sitcoms like The Office with a documentary feel and characters who address the camera directly, but can Miss Guided be funny, and more importantly, keep viewers tuning in week after week? Collected reviews after the jump.
"Miss Guided" doesn't rely on machine-gun rounds of dialogue; the pacing, entirely original, feels like a game of hopscotch. Guided by an ambient lunacy, the show resists forced restlessness, settling in and fleshing out its characters' idiosyncrasies instead. Becky and her colleagues occasionally talk to the camera in a mock documentary style, explaining how they landed at Glen Ellen High — exposition that transcends simple exposition
Beyond Greer's latter-day Mary Tyler Moore shtick, there's not a note or character that doesn't feel warmed over, from the vain and predatory Lisa to the detached principal (Earl Billings) to the authoritarian vice principal ("Saturday Night Live's" Chris Parnell, on autopilot) spoiling to use bare-knuckled discipline to tame this blackboard jungle. And while the show does muster a few softer moments between Becky and her young charges, they're used more as a device to highlight her insecurities than developed in any meaningful way. (That includes Jamie Lynn Spears, featured in a second-episode cameo.)
The characters on the show frequently talk to the camera, a device I didn't find annoying but could get old if it's overused. But my biggest problem with "Miss Guided" is this: I really like it, so there's a good chance that it's doomed. I hope I'm wrong about that.
"Miss Guided" is far less obscure and snarky - and more relatable - than the great "Arrested Development," but it has some of that show's crafty, nuanced, subversive vibe. And we all know what happened to "Arrested Development" - it didn't survive as long as it should have.
Yet silly and unsurprising as it seems, "Miss Guided" has something going for it that many predictable sitcoms do not: a uniformly talented cast. Greer pretty much defines delightful, so much so that you find yourself rooting for the show even during the pilot's many low moments (like when Becky almost causes an accident charging through the parking lot so she can "accidentally" park next to Tim.) Polaha's Tim is the ultimate dishy nice guy (though why he has to be a Spanish teacher who doesn't speak Spanish, a one-joke twist at best, is beyond me). And though it would be nice if the sexual harassment angle of Becky and Principal Huffy's relationship was dropped, Billings has a deadpan delivery that Bill Murray would envy.
"Miss Guided" uses a similar device as NBC's "The Office," in which characters reveal their innermost thoughts in face-front camera confessionals. (Greer would make a great casting choice as Angela's hated, off-screen sister.) In "The Office," however, there's a reason - the Dunder Mifflin gang is being filmed by a documentary crew.
Here it is just a tiresome setup for endless contradictions with descending comedy payoffs.
"Miss Guided"? Mistake.
The show is at its funniest with toss-away lines of dialogue, including Becky's reasons for arriving at the dance early ("in case someone faints or cries or has a baby in the bathroom") and the principal's announcement that he'll be observing in classrooms ("If I'm in your class, don't be alarmed. I'm judging you.").
"Miss Guided" isn't awful, but it's not all that funny either. It's another one of those geek-grows-up-and-is-still-haunted-by-her-high-school-years kind of comedies.
[...] The show features a few slightly off-color punch lines, but other than that the problem is it's just so predictable.
Miss Guided [ABC]