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NBC fires blanks with 'Inconceivable'

(Posted September 22, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

The title pretty much tells the story of this not-so-immaculate conception.

"Inconceivable" is a misconceived soap set in a fertility clinic where the staffers are all improbably fetching and anything that can possibly go wrong does. It's NBC's 10 p.m. Friday attempt to compete with ABC's "20/20" with an hour that might be better titled "Firing Blanks." The inherent melodrama has some absorbing moments, but they're undercut by overheated dialogue and story lines that invariably bite off more than they can easily chew early on. It tries to be funny, sexy, poignant, hip, wise and profound in the space of 48 minutes, clearly aiming for something highly derivative and yet daringly original. The odds of success appear long.

What is instantly annoying about the show is how stridently self-assured the principals are. This isn't typically the way it works in real life, where even professionals are dogged by some surface doubt and insecurity. Not so Rachel Lu (Ming-Na of "ER"), therapist and co-founder of the Family Options Fertility Clinic, who tends to lead with her Type-A bluster. She's given a run for her brassy money by Dr. Malcolm Bowers ("Empire's" Jonathan Cake), a swaggering, filthy rich, medically gifted, sex-mad dude who looks and acts as if he just stepped off the set of FX's "Nip/Tuck." The third member of the team, Dr. Nora Campbell ("Law & Order's" Angie Harmon), is a confirmed rebel and a former flame, naturally, of Bowers. (Harmon was added to the reshot pilot after Alfre Woodard fled the show after two episodes to join the "Desperate Housewives" ladies on Wisteria Lane as a new regular.)

So anyway, co-creators and executive producers Oliver Goldstick and Marco Pennette -- each of whom, we're told, had children through surrogates in real life -- pen the first pair of episodes supplied for review. It's obvious from the get-go that the pair want their show to be seen as sensational and controversial (that is, if it's seen at all). They stack the pilot with a potential malpractice suit, a dead soldier's frozen embryos, sperm swapping (as revenge!), infant racial issues, gay parenting and adoption ethics. If you don't already have anxiety overload when you go to work or submit to a procedure at this place, you will for sure by the time you check out. There's one employee (Mary Catherine Garrison) who wants to adopt the wrong-race kid and another who seeks payback after being dumped by a skirt-chasing semenologist (that's probably not a word).

It's more of the same in the second installment, with all variety of staff clashing and superficial interaction to go with the artificial insemination. The ruminations over moral and legal bugaboos in the fertility field come across in "Inconceivable" as stilted, and the couples seeking kids all seem rather the same, aside from the woman who doesn't want to use her own eggs to try to get pregnant because she fears the offspring will be ugly and so pops oral contraceptives when no one's looking.

The real question here is: and then what? It's hard to foresee how many permutations of conception-challenged couples are possible before the stories all begin to feel rehashed. "Inconceivable" will need to sink or swim on the strength of its personalities, and while Ming-Na, Cake and Harmon make for a strong threesome, none are terribly likable. That's not necessarily a fatal flaw, but it also probably won't much help a show already suffering early believability issues.

Source: Yahoo! News

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