'Accidentally' delivers bundle of joy
The whole point is anonymous sex, best forgotten. But it's impossible to purge the memory of a night of abandon when a child results from the union.
This scenario, the basis of Mary F. Pols' clever best-seller "Accidentally on Purpose," becomes the plot and title for CBS' Monday comedy, starring Jenna Elfman ("Dharma & Greg").
Rather than consider abortion or adoption, Elfman's character, Billie, a film critic, decides that at 37, this could be her last chance for motherhood.
Even if the man is not obvious father and husband material, Billie wants the baby. Instead of fleeing when he hears the news, Zack (Jon Foster) embraces the notion. He's a good guy who just happens to be broke, working but without a home, and considerably younger than Billie.
Set in San Francisco with a cast of terrific supporting actors – Ashley Jensen ( "Ugly Betty") as Billie's wisecracking best friend and Grant Show ("Swingtown) as James, Billie's boss and commitment-shy former lover – the comedy lets the audience know immediately that this is for adults, despite the early time slot. (The first joke is about nipples.) The sitcom follows the usual patter of gags, ably delivered by Elfman, who remains a light, fun presence.
"I like how honest she is and I think there is a funny anomaly with her," Elfman says of Billie. "To think out loud the way she does, to me, requires some confidence. At the same time, she is extremely doubtful of many of her moves. It is kind of funny. In the book, there's a huge amount of confidence and a huge amount of doubt."
The best-seller, as its fans will notice, has a different tone.
"The book, which I was a huge admirer of, had humor but a little bit of a tragic part to it," says Claudia Lonow, executive producer. "We took out of it that this is a family comedy and we added a little bit more romantic possibility between her and the baby daddy. I responded extremely positively to the spirit of Matt in the book and the fact that he was so early on his journey in life and so well intentioned. The big thing we wanted to hit, not so much on the head, and wanted to keep alive is the possibility of a romantic relationship for later in the series. Mary is not that maternal." (The names were changed from Mary and Matt to Billie and Zack.)
Zack is nurturing and dependable. A terrific chef who is beginning his career, he bunks on a futon at a friend's, then camps out in his car.
"He is an amazing human being," Foster says of his character. "He's someone who has not been provided to the public in a long time."