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ABC's 'Imaginary Mary' Features Cute, Cuddly Buzzkill
March 29, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

Costarring with a toon has only worked a few times in the history of filmed entertainment, like for Jimmy Stewart and Gene Kelly and Bob Hoskins and that’s kind of it.

It could work for Jenna Elfman in ABC’s Imaginary Mary, a new sitcom that premieres at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. Don’t bet your whole comic book collection on it.

Elfman plays Alice, who has built a successful public relations business and has also successfully avoided all romantic relationships.

She tells herself she really doesn’t want a romantic relationship. That she’s better off without one because it would only lead to distraction inevitably followed by heartache.

Stop us if you’ve heard that rationalization before, and yes, all viewers will instantly realize that Alice would love to have a relationship, but that she’s just afraid of commitment.

This fear has its roots in her childhood when she watched her parents fight their way through and out of an unhappy marriage.

As a refuge from those unhappy days, Alice created a friend, Mary, who took the form of a short, round, cute stuffed toy and whose advice from the very beginning has been that Alice should go out and have a good time and take everything she could get without the bothersome entanglements of having to think about anyone else’s emotions or feelings.

Mary taught Alice well enough that after a while, Alice didn’t need reminding. Mary’s advice became the game plan of her life, and she tells herself it’s working out just fine.

Then Alice meets Ben (Stephen Schneider). Ben’s a little bit of a psychological wreck who sometimes says and does silly things while he’s trying to get his world in order. He’s also a really good guy, a single Dad raising three kids, all of whom have their own neuroses, some no doubt nurtured by Ben.

To her horror, Alice discovers she kind of, gasp, likes Ben, which means it’s time to summon Mary back into the picture, stat.

Alas, it’s too late. Even as Mary begs Alice to bail, things snowball so rapidly that soon Alice is about to, gasp, meet Ben’s kids.

That includes Andy (Nicholas Coombe), a teenager who’s mortified that the world thinks he’s a terminal geek who’s going to grow up to become an accountant.

It also includes Dora (Matreya Scarrwener), a slightly younger teenager who’s got classic sullen teenage attitude, and the younger Bunny (Erica Tremblay), who’s still got some cute-kid innocence, but is catching up to her older siblings fast.

Alice is hardly the first thirtysomething woman forced to admit she has some romantic and perhaps even, gasp, maternal instincts she has long suppressed and denied.

She’s the first who tries to work that all out with a two-foot-tall white imaginary Toon.

It’s a novel idea, which may be exactly the problem. Novel comes way too close to “novelty,” meaning that once we get the joke, however clever it may seem, it could very quickly start feeling like reruns.

On the positive side, Elfman plays the familiar Alice role nicely, Schneider strikes the right tone as Ben, and Mary, voiced by Rachel Dratch, is actually a pretty cool character.

If Imaginary Mary doesn’t fly, perhaps Mary could score a show of her own.

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Alexandra Miller
Please give Mary a new show! I love the show and the imaginary friend! I am pissed that it got cancelled!
May 14, 2017   |  Reply
the old mary scares me
Apr 29, 2017   |  Reply
The idea of a childhood imaginary friend coming back to hound the adult is not really novel. It was done before in 1991's "Drop Dead Fred". In that one, Phoebe Cates is hounded by her childhood "friend", named (of course) Drop Dead Fred, played by Rik Mayall.
Mar 29, 2017   |  Reply
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