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The Challenging Life of a 'Work in Progress'
December 8, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 


(EDITOR'S NOTE: Potential comedy spoiler ahead…)

You're pouring out all your desperation to your therapist. Your life's a wreck, and you feel like you have no connections or purpose.

You pause to get a reaction and notice that your therapist is dead.

OMG, you think. Is my life so pathetic that it bored my therapist to death?

You can never tell these days what you're going to get when you turn on a new comedy show written from a place of deep personal angst. It's a thing, you've probably noticed, thanks to shows like Fleabag and Back To Life and anything in which Sharon Horgan has a hand.

The latest, debuting Sunday at 11 p.m. ET on Showtime, is Work in Progress, co-created by and starring Abby McEnany (top) as a quasi-autobiographical character named, spoiler alert, Abby.

She's the one telling the desperation story, as you might guess, and as you might further guess, it sets the tone of Work in Progress as complex and often troubled character comedy. Anyone looking for sitcom-style jokes should probably look elsewhere.

Work in Progress shows its dark side upfront, as the therapist could attest if she were still alive. That's become standard procedure in personal-angst shows, the premise being that we need to appreciate the depth of the low point from which our character begins her journey.

Abby describes herself as a "45-year-old fat, queer dyke," and she doesn't mean that whole phrase in a good way.

She's being bullied, for instance, by a slimmer coworker who bought her a Costco-sized container of almonds as an unsubtle hint she should start a healthier snacking regimen.

Since her therapist can't help anymore, Abby gets an unexpected boost in her battle against that kind of debilitating psychological assault from her supportive sister Alison (Karin Anglin), who fixes her up with an unlikely spontaneous date.

The date would be Chris (Theo Germaine, top), a restaurant server who is about half Abby's age. It's one of those unlikely combinations that may or may not work long-term, but for the present gives Abby, and probably Chris, a brightened outlook on life.

The sun peeks through the clouds, that sort of thing. It also makes Abby's naturally hard-edged humor more often get to flex its fun side instead of its ominous side.

Don't expect Abby to get all the way to, say, playful. There's still a lot that makes her feel like she's on the wrong track, including almonds.

What Abby does have, even in the brief few moments when her therapist is still alive, is the ability to make us root for her rather than, say, pity her. We'd just be happy if she found reasons to dial back some of her angst while retaining enough to keep Work in Progress progressing.

 
 
 
 
 
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