SEASON REVIEW: Big Day, Season 1

Big Day

Commissioned because of the success of real-time thriller 24, this ABC comedy details a wedding in real-time, with each 20 minute episode representing an hour of the wedding. When the show aired back in ’06-’07, the ratings faltered and it never made it to the back nine. But did it deserve a second look? Let’s see after the jump…

An overview of the series: Daddy’s girl Alice (Marla Sokoloff) and camp director Danny (Josh Cooke) are trying to get married in a ceremony masterminded by Alice’s rich as sin mother Jane (Wendie Malick) and her browbeaten wedding planner Lorna (Stephnie Weir), while her surgeon father Steve (Kurt Fuller) tries to keep up. Guests at the wedding include Alice’s bitter younger sister Becca (Miriam Shor), best man Skobo (Stephen Rannazzisi), and Becca’s ex Johnny (Terry Chen).

The core of any comedy is often its cast, and while the writing sometimes lets its end down, the cast and chemistry here is usually damn good. The MVP here is Josh Cooke, who takes a role that could have very easily been too vanilla and makes him adorable. He completely sells Danny’s love for Alice without making him a saint or a moron. His good soul doesn’t keep him from being comedically viable; see him in “Alice Can’t Dance”, where he begins to wonder with horror if his dancing chemistry with Jane hints at a latent sexual attraction. Why this man doesn’t have his own successful show yet, I don’t understand.

Kurt Fuller‘s father of the bride is one of those characters you can’t help but feel affection for by the end; though he often blusters and acts like a complete asshole, there is never a moment in which you think he doesn’t love his family more than anything in the world. Stephnie Weir does a fantastic job as frazzled wedding planner Lorna, who gets most of the more outright comedic beats as she struggles under overbearing Jane, played by the ever-fantastic Wendie Malick. And, though it’s an easy job to overlook, Marla Sokoloff brings a sweetness and a craziness to Alice that makes you want her and her poor groom to get their happy ending.

Miriam Shor grounded the series most consistently-amusing plot thread, the unlikely-yet-perfect romance between her sarcastic bad-girl Becca and Stephen Rannazzisi‘s sociopathic best man Skobo. Though Rannazzisi fumbled a little through the early episodes, by the end of the season we’re rooting for him and Becca even as he reminds us of how horrible he is. The two have fantastic chemistry, mostly because of Shor’s hard work making Becca the most amusing character in the show.

Though Stephen Tobolowsky is, as usual, great as the father of the groom ‘The Garf’, the character was a little too sitcommy for my tastes. I didn’t get any sort of fix on Terry Chen, playing Alice’s ex, as the character was barely present. The series wasted the genius of guest stars Anne Dudek and Tony Hale, sadly. Small sins, but notable nonetheless.

Though often relying a little too much on cliches, the show knows how to use the cast’s chemistry to its advantage, which is a good thing. Most of the comedy comes from somewhat tired concepts; the bride’s parents are uptight and rich, he’s a camp counselor with a good heart and no money, the wedding planner and the mother of the bride are in tension. Everything you’d expect from the premise. However, if not a home run, the writing combined with a strong cast can usually tease out a laugh every scene or so. The real strength of the show is the emotional component, as the relationships between Danny and Alice, and Steve and Jane are written so well that you can believe the conflict, while knowing they love each other and will survive the small crises. There’s a sweetness to the show that makes it worthwhile.

The best episode of the show’s short run is the aforementioned “Alice Can’t Dance”, which allowed Cooke and Malick to shine and let the cast do their thing. “Boobzilla”, wherein Alice begins to accept her inner bridezilla just a little bit, and “Skobo and Alice Hooked Up”, in which Danny tries to solve things between Becca and Skobo and just makes them worse, are also highlights. The show knows how to bounce a strong dialogue between a pair of characters, thankfully. Meanwhile, Steve’s interactions with ‘Shampagne wih an S’, a stripper who he uses in a passive-aggressive argument with Jane over her former paramour Bob Baron (Jack Conley), are another plot thread that works well.

Meanwhile, the writing takes a bit of a dip later in as two of the season’s weaker installments, “The Unstable Minister” and “Magic Hour”, both come up near close of season. Both episodes had good material, but both included too much that didn’t live up to par: “Minister” relied most of its A-plot comedy on a weak character (the aforementioned minister), while “Hour”s B-plot of a stoned Jane didn’t live up nearly to the lengthy build-up.

Spoilers for the end of the series follow. The most frustrating thing may be how the series ends, with a complete lack of resolution. Perhaps with would have been pat to end the finale with the couple marrying and closing off the arcs. Instead, the final moment of the episode involves a ‘twist’ that, without a next episode, hangs limp and meaningless. The end of ‘Magic Hour’, though technically with less closure, worked better as a finale just because it ended on a feeling, rather than a bizarre moment.

While “Big Day” was probably not fulfilling enough in half-hour segments every week, it was definitely a nice way to spend an afternoon meeting a fun cast of characters. This is the second time I’ve visited this series, and though not as biting as 30 Rock, it has a lot of heart, similar to My Name is Earl. Don’t spend years searching for it, but if you get the chance, check it out.

This article was originally posted at All My Friends and Enemies on May 14, 2009. See the original here.


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