Review: Accidentally on Purpose 1×1

Can't get enough Knocked Up? Then have I got the sitcom for you

Accidentally On Purpose

In the US: Mondays, 8.30pm, CBS

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Beautiful blonde media type is on a girls’ night out with her sister when she bumps into an aimless slacker, who’s out with his equally slack friends. They hit it off, they dance, they go back to his place together. And they don’t use a condom.

Lo-and-behold, just a few weeks later, blonde media type lady finds she’s pregnant, decides to keep the baby then realises she has to carve out some kind of relationship with the baby’s father – and his friends.

Yes, it’s Knocked Up. Except it’s also CBS’s new sitcom, Accidentally On Purpose, a vehicle for Dharma & Greg star Jenna Elfman.

But while it’s not the funniest show in the world or the most original, it has just enough heart – and just enough Jenna Elfman – to make it watchable. Just about.

Comedy starring Golden Globe Award winner Jenna Elfman as Billie, a single woman who finds herself “accidentally” pregnant after a one-night stand with a much younger guy, and decides to keep the baby… and the guy.

A newspaper film critic, Billie is barely surviving a humiliating breakup with her charming boss, James (Grant Show), who’s still trying to resume their relationship. Suddenly expecting a child with her “boy toy,” Zack (Jon Foster), Billie and Zack make an arrangement: to live together platonically. Billie’s party girl best friend Olivia (Ashley Jensen), and Abby (Lennon Parham), her conventional, younger married sister, eagerly look forward to the new addition and offer their own brands of advice and encouragement.

But when Zack and his freeloading friends, including Davis (Nicolas Wright), start to turn her place into a frat house, Billie isn’t sure if she’s living with a boyfriend, a roommate, or if she just has another child to raise. Lloyd Braun, Gail Berman, Gene Stein and Claudia Lonow are the executive producers for CBS Television Studios.

Cast and crew
Jenna Elfman (Billie)
James (Grant Show)
Zack (Jon Foster)
Olivia (Ashley Jensen)
Abby (Lennon Parham)
Davis (Nicolas Wright)

Executive Producers: Lloyd Braun, Gail Berman, Gene Stein, Claudia Lonow

Is it any good?
It’s really quite poor in a lot of ways. It’s a multi-camera studio comedy with laugh track, which is never a good starting point (although several billion Two And A Half Men fans will beg to disagree, I’m sure). The script is derivative; the characters are equally derivative; there’s some appalling acting; and the laughter count is really very low.

But it has a certain something. Most of that is Jenna Elfman, who unfortunately has never found a vehicle worthy of her talents and charisma since D&G. It’s not going for a laugh a line, either – which is good, since when it does, it misses horribly. There’s more characterisation here, and a slight degree of thoughtfulness, as befits the subject matter. Not much, but certainly a little.

It’s also more female-oriented than both Knocked Up and other sitcoms: this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, since it’s based on a true story (yes, the real Billie actually is a film critic in real life, too). It’s notable, for instance, that Elfman and her friends are in their mid-30s rather than mid-20s, and that Elfman’s boyfriend is a toyboy: the cougar references fill up about 50% of the dialogue.

It’s not all pro-women, mind: the title of the show – Accidentally On Purpose – is a hint to Billie’s subconscious motivations for failing to use that condom she always carried with her. Ashley Jensen is as good as always, and her obvious talent shines through. Unfortunately, she’s saddled with the standard sex-crazed, promiscuous best friend role, something for which she really is woefully miscast, even if she does give it her all. And the other main character on the female side – sister Abby – is a bit of a bitch who likes cutting down her sister, Billie, with every passing line.

For the most part, though, it’s standard war of the sexes stuff, with reconciliation at the end of the episode after various fights. The boys are all braindead and want to play video games all day. Billie’s ex-boyfriend thinks moving in together is when you spend some time at her place, some time at yours. Boytoy is a little bit bland and female fantasy (if you ignore his immaturity). And anything beyond the pregnancy and cheap ‘boys will be boys’ jokes is pretty much off limits, making it a sitcom with perhaps too much focus, and presumably a neverending situation of “Will they/won’t they?” for the rest of its run.

I’ll let you know whether it gets better by the third-episode, but for now, I’d suggest staying away from it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.