There’s a piece of music that’s been used in every commercial for every romantic comedy for the last five years: Peppy piano riff, mid-tempo snare-snap, intermittent bouncy bass, tagged with a generically jazzy sax solo—you’d know it instantly if you heard it.
The ubiquitous tune is usually floating beneath a voiceover like “[Female character’s name] is a Manhattan [always Manhattan] woman who has it all: A great career [always in publishing, advertising or law], a fabulous apartment [always with a wise old doorman], supportive girlfriends [always glib but not quite as hot] and loving parents [always still married after 30-40 years]. Only one thing is missing: A boyfriend [always followed by a pause and a montage of disastrous blind dates].” Now you’re hearing it.
Said stock musical snippet appears no less than three times in See Jane Date (ABC Family; premieres Saturday, Aug. 16), a romantic made-for-TV comedy based on the same-named book and filmed all of a month and a half ago. It could be taken less as a sign of an impending chick-flick assault than simply a timesaving measure to finish production so ABC Family wouldn’t have to run Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion—again!—this weekend.
ABC Family has been all about self-producing the chick-flickage this summer: In June, there was This Time Around, about a single female publicity exec looking for love. In July, there was Lucky 7, about a single female lawyer looking for love. Following professional suit, ABC Family’s August romantic-comedy entry wasn’t going to be about a Hooters waitress looking for love, but damned if See Jane Date star Charisma Carpenter (Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) couldn’t have pulled it off. Lugging around an intimidating set of post-natal breasts—she gave birth in March—that threaten to black out the sun and throw Earth off its axis at any moment, she’s a busty contrast to her bony bachelorette predecessors. Seriously, they’re freakin’ huge.
But not quite huge enough to distract from a story so thin it seems to have been adapted from a book jacket. Carpenter’s Jane Grant is a workaholic assistant editor at a Manhattan publishing house who spends her limited spare time going on disastrous blind dates and then whining about them to her supportive girlfriends. The wildly disconnected subplots involve Jane scrambling to find a man to escort her to a friend’s wedding (she fabricated a boyfriend to save face) and working on a book deadline with her high-school nemesis (Charmed’s Holly Marie Combs) who’s now a soap actress writing a tell-all memoir. Neither has the slightest thing to do with the other; maybe this romcom (shorthand for romantic comedy, keep up) was adapted from two book jackets.
Instead of putting all the show-carrying weight on Carpenter’s already strained back, ABC Family has made a big promotional deal of See Jane Date’s parade of hunky suitors: Zachary Levi (Less Than Perfect), Eddie McClintock (Felicity), Cameron Mathison (All My Children), Antonio Sabato Jr. (Melrose Place), Joshua Malina (The West Wing) and Evan Marriott (Joe Millionaire). Thing is, few of Jane’s dates are onscreen for more than 60 seconds, and the only one who leaves an impression (funny or otherwise) is ... Marriott. Good lord, the pinhead may have a career yet.
What we’ve learned from this week’s True TV: 1. As she proved on Angel before getting pink-slipped last season, Carpenter can be a sharp comic actress; she deserves better than this underdeveloped romcom fluff, if not a support truss. 2. The female target audience for said fluff has to become more demanding of the crap they’ll watch on a lonely Saturday night curled up on the couch with a cat and a pint of Vanilla Cherry Fudge Chunk, or ABC Family (and J.Lo, Kate Hudson, et al) will just keep it coming. 3. Now I can’t get that damned music outta my head... .