Season 1, Episode 1
This is a First Look Review of ABC’s Imaginary Mary starring Jenna Elfman, Stephen Schneider, and Rachel Dratch.
With my help, you're going to kick like in the A-double-S. That's a swear word. I'll teach you a bunch.
“Blandy. It’s a combination of my name and the word ‘bland.’” With that one quote a little less than halfway through the episode, the show’s third most annoying character perfectly described Imaginary Mary. Pilots are tough and we should thank the show business Gods that anything gets made but, holy moly, this show was not good. The characters are bad; the story is worse. The only saving grace is that it’s a novel concept. Yet it still looks like a web series.
Coming from the minds of ABC’s Adam F. Goldberg and some others, Imaginary Mary follows Jenna Elfman’s Alice as a woman whose imaginary friend convinced her that she “don’t need no man.” From early childhood to college years, Mary was there by her side. Until she wasn’t because Alice didn’t need her anymore. Cut to mid-thirties Alice hooking up then subsequently dating Stephen Scheider’s Ben, a guy who thought it’d be smart to have his dating profile complete with a profile pic where he has crocs and socks on (not to mention his God awful screen name) up while he’s giving Alice a presentation. Oh, and he has three children.
After three months of dating, Alice subconsciously brings Mary back and, just like that, she accepts her into her adult life. It doesn’t take more than a second as they both scream out “My best friend’s back.” While it’s great that a show can just throw viewers into their world, this one doesn’t quite pull it off. It all feels manufactured. Fox’s The Mick works because those kids are really screwed up. Similarly, Detroiters has heart in its cartoony blood. But Imaginary Mary struggles to find the answer to the question “Why?”
Twice this show manages to describe Ben’s three kids (Nicholas Coombe, Matreya Scarrwener, and Erica Tremblay). And twice it fails to make them likeable. The Mick’s kids are unlikeable because they’re all terrible people. The kids here are carbon copies of better kids from other shows on the same network. Coombe is reminiscent of Mason Cook’s Ray DiMeo on Speechless whose neurocies are exaggerated by his family; Scarrwener takes the form of both Ariel Winter and Sarah Hyland from Modern Family wherein they’re the nerd and the mean girl; and Tremblay is every other cute young child from Blackish, Fresh Off The Boat, The Middle, and American Housewife. The latter, which I reviewed and wasn’t too fond of, proves to have better execution than this. Mary herself describes the kids as “garbage children” and she’s not wrong.
Speaking of Mary, while animation in a live action setting has managed to grow up over the past forty years, follow through has not. Touch is very difficult to simulate and it’s easy to see here as Elfman interacts with this fake character. And reality with this cartoon proves to be hard too. Mary casts off a shadow for crying out loud. The creators need to create a rule book and stick to it. If she’s imaginary, she can’t make a shadow. To add to that, parts where Elfman is out in public drinking/interacting with Mary are funny in concept but just make this woman who “don’t need no man” look crazy. Stop it.
Should you watch Imaginary Mary?
It’s hard to watch a pilot and not recommend the series. But – if you really enjoy the concept – stick with it. If you’re not into anything, stay away. Far away.