More and more as the years go on, it's not uncommon for dramas or comedies on TV to feel like common formulas that have been given one or two tweaks. There have been some fantastic exceptions to this rule, but for the most part sitcoms stick to a formula because that's what works. "Accidentally on Purpose" is a sitcom that took a fairly old formula and managed to try harder than most to give it a fresh spin. While the series starts off a little rocky, it improves noticeably as the first season goes on - which makes it unfortunate that this is the first and last season of the show.
"Accidentally on Purpose" stars Jenna Elfman ("Dharma and Greg") as Billie, a movie critic for the local paper. Billie is independent, lighthearted and engaging - while not a stretch for Elfman to play, she does bring charm to the role. As the series opens, Billie has just broken up with her boyfriend/boss James (Grant Show) and starts drinking, which leads to her meeting and sleeping with a guy named Zack (Jon Foster). The thing about Zack is he's in his twenties and Billie is in her thirties. By the end of the pilot, Billie is pregnant and has to tell Zack that she's going to keep the baby.
The series follows Billie and Zack as the decide to take on becoming parents together. While initially they aren't a couple, they do end up living together platonically while trying to balance their single lives and their soon-to-be-parents lives. There are some situations that lean more towards clichés, but for the most part the season offers some memorable moments and situations. In "The Love Guru," Billie tries to give Davis and Zack dating advice since she's not really dating much. Still, when the girl Zack is dating decides she wants to meet Billie, things get a little awkward. In "It Happened One Christmas," Billie and Abby's parents Lara (Nancy Lenehan) and Edward (Fred Dryer) come to visit - afraid that she's ruined every other Christmas, Billie decides that she doesn't want them to know that Zack is living with her. The season finale episodes ( "Speed" and "Speed 2") offer some of the show's best moments, with Billie trying to get Zack out of a ticket by faking labor pains, only to go into actual labor pains later when stopped by the same police officer.
While Elfman and Foster play off of each other nicely and the writing clicks more as the season progresses, it's the additional cast of characters that gives "Accidentally on Purpose" the extra humor and warmth it needs to make it stand out. Lennon Parham plays Abby, Billie's sister who is overly excited about her sister's pregnancy, while also resenting the fact that she and her husband Nick (Bryan Cuprill) don't have children of their own. Parham's performance was one of my favorites as it remains consistently endearing and funny. Billie's friend, Olivia (Ashley Jensen, "Extras") doesn't think much of Billie's pregnancy and doesn't mind saying so, but manages to be there for Billie. At the opposite spectrum is Zack's best friends Davis (Nicolas Wright) and Ryan (Pooch Hall). Wright's character is the stereotypical slacker, but he livens it up with a great performances and solid delivery.
Although it takes a bit of time to find its footing, "Accidentally on Purpose" remains an enjoyable sitcom that did manage to wrap things up well by the close of its only season. A light recommendation.
1 21/Sep/09 Pilot
Billie finds out that she is pregnant from a fling with Zack, an aspiring chef in his 20's, and decides to keep the baby. She must simultaneously deal with her boss and ex-boyfriend, James, who finds himself jealous of Zack.
2 28/Sep/09 Memento
While snooping through Zack's belongings, Billie discovers a note addressed to her that he never finished writing, and sets out to find what Zack was hiding.
3 05/Oct/09 One Night Stand
Billie's pregnancy causes her breasts to increase in size--which causes other guys to flirt with her. Meanwhile, Zack refuses to have sex with Billie after she tries to have sex with him.
4 12/Oct/09 The Date
Billie and Zack discuss their feelings on dating and agree to see other people, however, Billie's pregnancy gets in the way of any potential love connections.
5 19/Oct/09 The Love Guru
Billie tries to live vicariously through Zack and Davis by offering up dating advice to them. However, things take a turn when the objects of the boys' affection reveal their true intentions.
6 02/Nov/09 Fight Club
Billie and Zack have their first big argument after Zack tries to surprise Billie by installing a low flow toilet.
7 09/Nov/09 The Godfather
Billie unintentionally causes Abby and Nick to break up when she asks them to be godparents. However, after a fun night on the town with Davis goes too far, Billie must stop Abby before she does something she will regret.
8 16/Nov/09 The Third Man
When Billie starts dating a colleague from her newspaper, Zack is unable to hide his jealousy.
9 23/Nov/09 Working Girl
Billie, feeling threatened when James hires another film critic at the paper, sets out to prove how valuable she is.
10 07/Dec/09 Class
A scheduling conflict causes Billie and Zack to take different parenting classes. Zack thinks this might be his chance to bond with some other dads but instead becomes buddies with two women who are having a baby together. Billie goes to class with Olivia and Abby but competition ensues when Abby is better than Billie at everything.
11 14/Dec/09 It Happened One Christmas
Worried that she'll ruin Christmas, as she has in previous years, Billie tries to hide from her parents the fact that Zack is living with her. Meanwhile, Abby's husband, Nick, tries to impress their father.
12 11/Jan/10 The Odd Couples
When Billie tells Abby that Zack doesn't like Nick, they fight and Abby tells Billie to arrange her own baby shower. Davis pretends to be a rock star's younger brother to impress a girl. Billie and Zack discover the sex of their child.
13 18/Jan/10 The Rock
Billie and Sully work on a story together, which leads to a surprising discovery about the paper. Zack begins a new work adventure with Davis as his partner.
14 01/Feb/10 Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
Billie tries to manipulate Zack so he does more around the apartment, but her plan backfires when Zack ends up creating a new mess each time he cleans one up. Meanwhile, Davis gets a job at a gay bar to earn extra cash.
15 08/Feb/10 Back to School
Billie invites herself to Zack's high school reunion but worries that she can't compete with his hot, ex-girlfriend in her pregnant state. Meanwhile, Olivia helps Abby host a party where they try to sell Abby's miracle youth juice.
16 07/Apr/10 Face Off
Zack is upset when Billie hires a baby nurse without consulting him. Meanwhile, Davis and Ryan are faced with a difficult choice when they learn surprising news about the nurse.
17 14/Apr/10 Speed
Billie pretends to go into labor to save Zack from getting a traffic ticket after they're pulled over for speeding. Meanwhile, Olivia and Davis go shopping for a baby gift.
18 21/Apr/10 Speed 2
After faking labor pains to get Zack out of a speeding ticket, Billie goes into labor--for real. Unfortunately, things take a turn when Zack gets busted by the officer they had initially lied to and is hauled off to the police station.
VIDEO: Episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is perfectly acceptable: sharpness and detail are certainly satisfactory, but fall a little bit short of what one might desire from a newer TV effort. Still, the transfer is otherwise fine, with no wear (as to be expected) or other significant issues. Colors look bright and vibrant, with nice saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Not exactly a presentation anyone will reach for as demo material, the audio is a generic sitcom mix, with little going on in the surrounds. Audio quality is fine though, with good clarity and detail.
EXTRAS: "Mary Pols: The 'Real' Billie Chase" - A ten minute look at Mary Pols, who wrote the book, "Accidentally on Purpose," based on her own experiences. There are some interviews with the cast, but the majority of the feature focuses on Mary Pols and her take on having her life turned into a sitcom. Interesting and worth a look.
"Best of 'Lunch with Nic and Jon'" Actors Nicolas Wright and Jon Foster invite people on the lot to have lunch with them in the back of a truck during breaks. It's a web talk show where the two interview crew members, other actors, and guest stars. The feature shares a little about how "Lunch with Nic and Jon" got started, and also includes footage from various segments and interviews. At about eleven minutes, the feature offers several interviews and lots of footage that fans of the series, the web show, and the actors may enjoy.
"The 'Unconventional' Behind The Scenes Documentary" - A look at how the series got started, including bringing the book to screen and casting. The feature also covers a little about each character and what sets them apart, as well as aspects of the series such as script content, performing live, and more.
"The Bro-partment" - A brief look at the apartment the guys shared and what went into making it look grimy. The interviews are pretty entertaining, revealing some of the cast and crew's experiences with similar apartments when they were younger.
A "Gag Reel" is also included on the DVD.
Final Thoughts: Although it takes a bit of time to find its footing, "Accidentally on Purpose" remains an enjoyable sitcom that did manage to wrap things up well by the close of its only season. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. A light recommendation.