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Review: Miss Guided 1x1-1x3

Posted on March 26, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Carusometer for Miss GuidedA Carusometer rating of 4

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

A third-episode verdict without a first-episode review? What's going on here? 

Well, if certain US networks want to air their new comedy shows so quickly that I haven't even finished watching the first episodes before the third episodes have come and gone (and the show's been cancelled in the case of The Return of Jezebel James), what do they expect?

It saves a bit of time, mind.

Anyway: Miss Guided.

Did you like school? Yes?

You jock douchebag. School sucked. Everyone knows that.

Of course, if you knew then what you know now, it would have been so much easier for you to survive its many trials, wouldn't it? So here's a question: would you go back to your old High School as a teacher and conquer those demons? And have you really changed as much as you think you have?

Plot
Having finally conquered the awkward, traumatic world of high school, Becky Freeley (Judy Greer) returns to her alma mater as a guidance counselor with her insecurities and orthodontia a distant memory.

While Becky deftly navigates the uncertainties of troubled students and an often troubling faculty, she is certain of one thing - her desperate attraction to hot mechanic-turned-Spanish teacher Tim (Kristoffer Polaha). Now that it seems Becky might finally be getting the upper hand in life and love, she's shocked to discover that the newly hired English teacher is none other than her high school nemesis, Lisa Germain (Brooke Burns). Lisa is a smart, stunning beauty, and suddenly Becky is forced to relive her past and compete for Tim's affections.

"Miss/Guided" stars Judy Greer as Becky Freeley, Brooke Burns as Lisa Germain, Kristoffer Polaha as Tim O'Malley, Earl Billings as Principal Huffy and Chris Parnell as Vice Principal Bruce Terry.

The series is executive-produced by Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland, Karey Burke, Mark Hudis, Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg, and co-executive produced by Barbie Adler and creator Caroline Williams. "Miss/Guided" is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios.

Is it any good?
Ashton Kutcher has something of an obsession with geeks. He exec-produced Beauty and the Geek and now he's exec-producing this. For someone who's so pretty, he's quite pro-geek, too: Beauty and the Geek has quite positive messages and basically shows geek and beauty alike how the other half lives and that they're not so different or odd/vacuous after all.

Miss Guided is slightly pro-geek, too, but not hugely. If anything, its message is "Once a geek, always a geek". Socially unskilled? Don't dress well? Unpopular? Lacking self-awareness? Well, that's you for the rest of your life then. If you were beautiful and popular at school, you're pretty much going to be a douchebag for the rest of your life, too.

It's a little more nuanced than that though. Judy Greer's character might still live with her mother and have an unrequited crush on the manly mechanic-turned-Spanish teacher Tim – who is, of course, a little too dumb to actually know much Spanish beyond what he can read in the next module before he teaches it to his classes – but Tim seems to be more interested in her than he is in the former cheerleader turned English teacher, Lisa (Brooke Burns), who's a little too obvious for him, now.

But it's not a huge nuance.

Much of the show's humour revolves around the central idea, familiar to anyone who watched Channel 4's Teachers, that teachers are often just the same as the kids they teach, just a little older, and don't embrace the morality they lecture their pupils about. The vice principal only wants to be popular and hang out with the cool teachers – and heaven forbid anyone think him gay. Becky just wants everyone to acknowledge how great she is because of all the hard work she does. Everyone's lied on their resumés, cuts corners, cheats, etc. And so on.

Trouble is, there are minimal laughs in all of this. While there's always a titter or two to be had per episode, usually from something crude or sexual, it's just a little too obvious, predictable and even cruel at times. Even an appearance by Kutcher as a substitute teacher called Beaux who rips off inspirational messages from Good Will Hunting and is really as dumb as a post, despite his apparent alpha teacher status, couldn't lift the series out of the very, very mundane.

It might just be the show suffers from what I call the "Lucy Mangan effect" (men find it about as funny and as interesting as being waterboarded, but which a sizeable group of women seem to love) and this is really a female-oriented comedy that will only resonate with women for some bizarre reason. If so, go off and enjoy it, my friends. But I suspect it's universally bad, so be warned: it's as enjoyable as PE.

Here are some YouTube clips of pretty much the best bits. It's all downhill after these.

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