Hit or Sh**: ABC’s IMAGINARY MARY

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

imaginary mary

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Every time I get too comfortable living in the great television renaissance, some shit like this rears its ugly head to remind me that we live in a dark world that doesn’t care about our feelings. This isn’t to say that TV isn’t still skyrocketing its way to greatness—even the medieval renaissance had its fair share of artistic duds—but it certainly still has some unwanted cargo weighing it down. IMAGINARY MARY is one of two things: a Frankenstein’s monster of every ill-conceived sitcom trope known to humankind, or evidence of an alien civilization that has infiltrated the entertainment industry, making its best guess at pop culture a la Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love”. If I’m being honest, it’s probably both.

Workaholic PR executive Alice has no time for love—until she meets divorced father of three, Ben. Her childhood imaginary friend Mary—who only Alice can see—manifests to sabotage the relationship because of Alice’s inherent fear of being hurt in relationships following her parents’ divorce. But Ben is understanding of her fears (“too good for her,” as Alice says) and she overcomes her fear of becoming just like her parents. For those of you at home playing the ABC Sitcom Drinking Game, you just died of alcohol poisoning!

imaginary mary mfw

MFW these residuals will definitely not bolster my college fund

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Knowing this premise, if I held a gun to your head and forced you to write this pilot, what kinds of scenes would you come up with? Probably some silly moments where Alice talks to Mary but nobody else can see her, an awkward meeting with Ben’s kids, a confusing conversation where Alice talks to Mary and Ben at the same time, maybe a failed date followed by a drinking bender culminating in reconciliation for all? Maybe pepper in a sad childhood flashback or two for good measure? You’d be right on all counts.

To put it bluntly: there is nothing original about this pilot. They do nothing new or inventive with the premise, which I also can’t give them credit for because I literally wrote it two years ago.

It’s amazing how much exposition this pilot feels the need to dump on its audience in the first few minutes despite being the most straightforward premise ever. The pilot opens with Imaginary Mary narrating a sad montage of Alice’s childhood, explaining that Alice invented her to cope with the separation of her parents and to teach her to never depend on boys for anything. The half-baked theme song/title card is literally Alice saying, “I’ve got it all figured out!” and Mary going, “No you don’t!” In the worst meet-cute ever, Ben pops into Alice’s PR firm for consulting on . . . something? He hooks his laptop up to the projector when—uh oh!—his dating profile is still open! And the title of the page is literally “Divorced Dad of Three.” Everything I just described to you happens in the first five minutes of this pilot. This thing is paced like it’s got only minutes to live—which, admittedly, is probably not far from the truth.

imaginary mary jenna

Jenna, do you need help? What are you trying to tell us??

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What really left me scratching my head here is that I honestly have no idea who this show is supposed to be for. It’s obvious it’s not meant for anyone who’s ever watched TV before. But it doesn’t really appeal to young kids who would like the animated element either; It’s not really a fantasy show, it’s kind of a family show, it’s definitely a woman-fundamentally-changed-by-man’s-magic-penis show. The (lack of) comedy makes it nearly unwatchable. Mary is in fierce competition with Ben’s son for “Most Annoying Character Ever Put On Television.” She starts out strong with a recurring and completely serious macarena joke, but loses out when Ben’s son decides to re-brand as “cool” and call Alice “A-dog.” Finally, the current iteration of the animated Mary character is cute enough, but the original design is the strongest evidence that this show was never intended to be watched by people:

imaginary mary presented

Presented without comment

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Unfunny, bizarre, and poorly executed—IMAGINARY MARY bores the viewer at best and baffles her at worst. Not unlike the grating titular character, this figment would be better left suppressed deep in the annals of the creators’ troubled psyches.

Verdict: Sh**

IMAGINARY MARY airs on Tuesdays on ABC

Kate Brogden is the Television Editor at Crossfader in addition to an aspiring screenwriter with a penchant for magical realism and romantic comedies. Her proudest achievement to date is getting a friend into Disneyland without a ticket.

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