I always had a map for my life … now I've walked off it entirely.
Apparently I’m unintentionally going through some sort of Marshall Herskovitz/Edward Zwick phase right now, as they are involved in both MSCL and O&A. Next stop, Thirtysomething. And now, here's some background on Once & Again, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Once & Again aired on ABC from 1999 to 2002. It was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the same team that created Thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. One of the show's more unique aspects were the "interview" sequences filmed in black and white and interspersed throughout each episode, where the characters would reveal their most innermost thoughts and memories to the camera.
We open on Lily (Sela Ward) lying in bed, with a voiceover/B&W “talking head” of her talking as though she’s being interviewed [these asides are a bit irritating]. Anyway, she is saying “All I ever wanted to be safe. That’s the funny thing, cause I never chose the safe thing.” She feels as though her life is losing direction, and she isn’t sure what to do next. We see her waking up her children: 14-year-old Grace and 9-year-old Zoe. We learn that Lily is in the middle of a divorce because her husband, Jake, cheated on her. Next we see Rick (Billy Campbell) waking up, and his B&W bit: “I always had a map for my life. You know, where I was supposed to be headed. And now it’s like I’ve walked off it entirely.” No specific reason is given for his divorce, but we learn that he also has two children: 16-year-old Eli, and 11-year-old Jessie.
Rick and Lily first make contact while dropping their kids off at school. Their eyes meet and they have a quick flash of connection, then Rick drives away. Later that day, Grace is hurt in a soccer match and Lily takes her to the school office, where Rick and Eli are waiting for a meeting with the guidance counselor. Rick and Lily chat, each revealing that he/she is divorced, and they have a bit of cute flirtation. Later, Rick calls Lily to ask her out, and he is adorably nervous. She is distracted my her family crowding the kitchen and replies, “Uh yeah, thanks. You know, if there is any, we’ll call. Thank you so much.”
Which, yes, has absolutely nothing to do with what Rick has asked. Later, she calls him back to apologize and they make a date. During all of this, Rick’s kids know what is going on and are supportive of it [“Go Dad!”] while Lily tells her daughters she is going on a date, but does not tell them who she is dating. Lily’s kids are skeptical, as both want their own parents to get back together. Jake’s continued presence—he behaves almost as if they are not getting divorced at all—continues to make things difficult.
At school, Eli notices Grace in the hall, and her friends freak out. Later, he invites to a make out party, and Grace is amazed … for Grace is super high-strung, has panic attacks, and has incredibly low self-esteem (she thinks she’s ugly and overweight). And Eli is apparently somewhat of a school hottie.
Rick and Lily have a great date, and make out like teenagers. They set up another date, with Lily asking Jake to take the kids for the night. After much cute hedging, Rick & Lily go back to her place with the agreement that they will not have sex. However, this goes out the window pretty quickly, and they are getting naked on the couch when Jake & the kids walk in. Grace is horrified, and finally realizes that this is why Eli has been talking to her.
Lily and Rick meet for coffee, and she tells him they can’t date. He tells her that what is happening between them doesn’t happen that often, but she walks away. However, in the end she calls Rick and they meet again. There is no dialogue, they just walk up to each other and break into huge grins. And that’s the end of the pilot.
So far I like it ok. With the exception of Grace, the characters are presented as very well adjusted. I’m assuming this will disintegrate as the show continues, or else how boring! To sum up:
THE FAMILY MANNING
Lily Manning: high-strung, high-maintenance soccer mom who owns a bookstore with her sister. She is hesitant about relationships, is afraid of getting hurt, and uses her children as an excuse (i.e. “they’re not ready for me to date yet”). Lily has two children…
Grace Manning: a relatively normal 14-year-old. Not popular, but has her group of friends. Suffers from low self-esteem and panic attacks. Is desperate to start dating, but no one is asking her.
Zoe Manning: little miss perfect. Cute, sweet, able to easily manipulate her father…
Jake Manning: charming and handsome, his unfaithfulness led to his divorce. However Jake and Lily are not divorced yet, and there is a suggestion that until recently they were still fooling around.
THE FAMILY SAMMLER
Rick Sammler: calmer and more casual than Lily, owns an architecture firm with his best friend. Started dating immediately after his divorce. More “carpe diem” than Lily. Rick has two children…
Eli Sammler: handsome, popular 16-year-old. Good at basketball but terrible at school; wants a girl who won’t judge him for his tutoring (he is overly concerned with this). Girlfriend is Jennifer.
Jessie Sammler: at this point I know nothing about this child, except she’s 11 and the daughter of Rick and…
Karen Sammler: a normal mom, a little high-strung, very concerned with Eli’s trouble in school. Thinks Rick doesn’t want to admit their son has a problem.