I should state from the get-go that I am actually not a big fan of laugh tracks, despite my argument for them in this particular review. Laugh tracks have always felt like a cheap way of telling the audience, "You should be laughing right now!" It's even more baffling when there's absolutely nothing to be laughing about as a studio audience whoops it up for every punch line.
I'm grateful that shows like the original Office have influenced how television comedies are made now. I mean, could you really imagine Parks and Recreation or New Girl with a laugh track? Then again, those aren't the right shows for this comparison in the first place. Laugh tracks, for the most part, fit in the traditional sitcom category. It makes sense that a shows such as How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, like Seinfeld and Friends before them, would have a laugh track.
So why doesn't the new comedy Trophy Wife have one? The pilot has prat falls, sight gags and laugh-free one-liners ("I love Costa Rica and I hate melanoma") that would only benefit from having a laugh track to fill the void. Now, Trophy Wife doesn't feel quite as sitcom-y as, say, Everybody Loves Raymond , since it falls more under the Modern Family umbrella (wealthy people in immaculate houses, easily resolved problems, gaggles of terrible children), but there's something oddly comforting in the harmless, fluffy nature of the show.
Trophy Wife isn't a bad show, and that's entirely because of the cast. (The grown-up cast, that is. You'll want to ground these kids, too). Even when the writing is weak and predictable, a solid and talented roster that includes Bradley Whitford, Marcia Gay Harden and the wildly underrated Michaela Watkins can do wonders.
Malin Akerman plays the titular trophy wife Kate, a party girl who quite literally falls into the lap of a wealthy lawyer named Brad (Whitford). Brad has three kids from his two marriages, to the hardened, type-A doctor Diane (Harden) and the crunchy granola gal Jackie (Watkins). We don't know much about Kate, his current and third wife, other than she is very beautiful and very young and always wanted a husband and kids. She's not a villain per se, but I'm also not entirely sure why we're supposed to care about or root for her. Plus, wouldn't the title of Trophy Wife alone give her a stimga? Akerman is pleasant enough in the role, but she isn't given much to do.
And that's exactly what the show is: pleasant enough. It's not as actively offensive as many of this season's new sitcoms (looking at you, Dads) and vets like Whitford do a lot with a little, but if the show had owned what it is, a run-of-the-mill family sitcom, maybe we'd be pleasantly chuckling along with the track.
Trophy Wife premiered on Tuesday, September 24 at 9:30 PM ET on ABC.
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