Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Miss Guided: "Homecoming"

Illustration for article titled Miss Guided: "Homecoming"
Illustration for article titled Miss Guided: "Homecoming"

Over the past several Mondays, I've grown more and more impressed with The New Adventures Of Old Christine, the post-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfuss sitcom that CBS has kept on the air despite middling ratings and little buzz. Yes, it's a traditional three-camera sitcom–without much in the way of a "sit"–but Louis-Dreyfuss has developed so many facets to her neurotic single-mom character that at this point she can get a laugh out of a nothing line like, "God, I'm lonely," provided that she says it with the right inflection, and at just the right time.

What does all that have to do with Miss Guided? Just that between Louis-Dreyfuss on Christine, Tina Fey on 30 Rock, and Christina Appegate on Samantha Who?, there's a wave of strong female leads on sitcoms right now, and it would've been nice if Miss Guided could've been part of the trend. But alas, Miss Guided is a pretty much a complete botch: a decent idea for a show undoubtedly dumbed-down in development-land.

The always-delightful Judy Greer plays a former high school nerd who gets a job as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, where she hopes to help other outsiders like herself by proving that they can become as beautiful and successful as she did. Only she's can't be that successful if she's just a guidance counselor. And while Greer is definitely pretty, there's a gawkiness about her character too–she definitely remembers what it was like to be a nobody, and still kind of carries herself like one.

In the right hands, Miss Guided could've been poignant farce, making fun of Greer's harmless self-delusions and how she can't really change who she is. And there's a little of that, in the first episode's introduction of a romantic interest: a hunky fellow faculty member who's also in the line of sight of the high school's former homecoming queen. The look of mild panic on Greer's face when she realizes that she's going to have to compete with the popular kids again is both funny and real.

But that's about the only part of Miss Guided that's real. It's not like naturalism is necessary in a sitcom–Greer's old show Arrested Development damn sure wasn't naturalistic–but the absurdity should at least emerge naturally, as part of an orderly, smartly conceived comic universe. Miss Guided doesn't have one of those. It comes from a world where Greer's nerd-dom is represented by a picture of her sporting headgear-style braces while holding up a sign for The Milli Vanilli Fan Club. It's a world where the high school mascot is a goofy cartoon rabbit, and a misfit student complains to Greer that he's "failing remedial P.E."

These aren't jokes inspired by the real world, and they aren't jokes inspired by some madcap genius. They're clichéd high school jokes, pulled from a punch-up writer's dusty file. Greer is almost appealing enough to make Miss Guided work regardless. But she's no Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who can create an entire believable comic universe with a single hand-flick, awkward gulp, or knotted brow. Give her 10 more years, then maybe. But not yet.

Grade: C-

Stray observations:

-Why don't we have more good shows set in high schools? It's such a rich setting, both for drama and comedy, and almost no one uses it well. I love Aliens In America, but it's not really "a high school show." Really, Veronica Mars came closest recently to getting high school right.