Review: The Ex List 1×1

YOU ARE A GIRL. YOU MUST WATCH THIS. Is this thing working?

TheExList

In the US: Fridays, 9pm et/pt, CBS

What do women want? It’s a despairing thought asked by male TV executives all the time, in the hope of getting some female viewers for their networks. Sometimes they’ll look at the chick lit section of their local Barnes and Noble and go, “Oh. That’s what women want.” Other times, they’ll look at other female oriented TV programmes and copycommission appropriately.

Sometimes, though, they’ll look overseas, usually to Britain and sometimes to Canada. But for The Ex List, they looked even further afield: Israel.

The Ex-List‘s premise is dumbness in a glass: 33-year-old San Diego flower shop owner, Bella Bloom (seriously), takes her sister’s hen night party to a psychic and gets told she has a year to marry or she’ll die alone. After a series of other predictions come true, she becomes convinced the psychic is telling the truth. Thing is, she’s destined to marry someone she’s already dated, so she puts together a list of all her exes, and decides to try them out again, one at a time, to see which was really Mr Right.

So roll up, roll up for the oddball man vetting service.

The Ex-List is surprisingly not bad. On the one hand, the mind rebels at the ridiculous premise of the whole show. But there have been stupider starting points for great shows so let’s not get too tied up in that. Then there’s the fact that every single facet of the show, from the casting to the dialogue to the plots to the wardrobe to the set design might as well have “THIS IS FOR YOU. YOU ARE A GIRL. YOU MUST WATCH THIS. IT’S BIOLOGY. WE THINK.” written all over it. A surfer girl who owns a flower shop and rides a twee bike? I don’t think so.

Then there’s the central character, Bella, who just isn’t that interesting. She’s more interesting by the end of the episode than she appears to be at first, but ultimately, it’s hard to root for someone who is by far the dullest character in the whole show. To a certain extent, I think it’s a combination of miscasting, wardrobe and design, since on paper, the character seems far more interesting. Instead, the ostensible live wire appears to have been earthed.

But those problems aside, there are some good aspects to the show. All the supporting and incidental characters are interesting, even the male ones. The men aren’t complete a-holes, which is something to be thankful for, and the script did make numerous turns and twists that were pretty unexpected – you think it’s going one way, and it goes somewhere completely different. At the very least, you have to give kudos to a writer that somehow manages to introduce a mirkin into one of the sub-plots.

The laughs were a little few and far between, but there were laughs and this is just episode one. Worryingly, the show’s main (sole?) female exec-producer has already departed and she wrote the script so it might well be that the good qualities will evaporate in later episodes. But if the original Israeli scripts are good, maybe that won’t be such an issue.

Could be promising, but sufficiently flawed that I’m not holding out too much hope.

Here’s a promo that introduces the whole show, you lucky people.