August 25, 2011



For the most part, actors only get one shot in a given pilot season.  Since the lion’s share of network pilots are produced during the same narrow Spring window–allowing them to be picked up and announced at the Upfronts in May–and since actors who play regular characters on a pilot have to give the network exclusivity on their series services for at least several months, once actors are cast in a particular project, that’s their only chance for a series until the next pilot season.  (Cable does allow for some off-season possibilities.)  And since, for many actors, the possibility of getting a regular paycheck that can go on for years is a career-transforming event, the fact that a year might be squandered on a show that’s going nowhere–with only one fee received for pilot services–is a serious risk.

These thoughts occur while watching Jesse Bradford, Bonnie Somerville, Judith Light and Tom Arnold do their best in the busted pilot OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS, which was produced for ABC by its home studioDid the script by Hunter Covington seem like a good idea at some point?  It’s hard to see why–Bradford plays Adam, a young guy (he co-owns a taco truck with a partner played by Malcolm Barrett) who’s involved with Michelle, a divorced woman (Somerville) with 2 kids.  (The script makes an issue about their older woman-younger man dynamic, but Somerville is only 5 years older than Bradford, so it’s not like her cultural references are FDR and Tommy Dorsey.)   Adam is determined to win the hearts of Michelle’s children; her son’s main purpose is to serve as a running gag by eating every object put in front of him; her daughter wants nothing to do with Adam.  Since the show has no intention of becoming a black comedy where Adam and Michelle’s daughter really loathe each other (which might have been fun), hilarity is supposed to be supplied by Michelle’s ex-mother-in-law (Light) and her boyfriend (Arnold), who for no accountable reason prefer Adam to their own son.  (All through the pilot, I thought the twist was going to be that they were really scheming on their son’s behalf and pretending to like Adam, but no.)  This pair also does what are supposed to be charmingly eccentric things, like eating Japanese food in kimonos and playing steel drums.
Other People’s Kids isn’t totally unwatchable–Covington was a junior writer on My Name Is Earl, and the script has some sense of craft–but it’s creaky and obvious.  (That actually doesn’t make it appreciably worse than some of the new sitcoms ABC is putting on the air, but it’s no better than those are, either.)  The only sparks come from the cast:  Bradford and Somerville really are a likable couple, and Arnold plays weird quite well.  (Although the less said about the kids, who seem to have stepped off a reality show, the better.)  For their pains, those talented actors will have to wait till another development season gets going for their next try at TV’s brass ring.

The Sked’s Verdict:  The Network Was Right
Read more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."