Agent Jack Bauer of FOX's "24" may be able to stop a nuclear catastrophe, but could he cope with salad-based subterfuge?
"Big Day," the promising new ABC sitcom premiering Tuesday, Nov. 28, uses the real-time format of "24" to chronicle the mounting conflicts and crises of an overblown wedding that teeters on the brink of disaster.
Alice (Marla Sokoloff) and her groom-to-be, Danny (Josh Cooke), just want to tie the knot, but as the show opens, things don't look too promising for the couple.
For starters, Alice's dad, Steve (Kurt Fuller), thinks Danny is a doofus. Danny's best man, Skobo (Stephen Rannazzisi), isn't able to offer much support, since Alice's older sister (Miriam Shor) accidentally swallowed his contact lenses, effectively blinding him. As for the two other groomsmen, one has a covert crush on Danny, while the other once had a torrid fling with Alice.
Meanwhile, Alice's control-freak mom, Jane (Wendie Malick), is engaged in a battle of wills with her daughter over which salad to serve (Alice's choice, Caesar, is simply not to be borne).
"You're arguing about salad, but you're not really arguing about 'salad'; you're arguing about control," explains executive producer Josh Goldsmith, who created "Big Day" with his wife, Cathy Yuspa. "You're arguing about dynamics. You're arguing about letting go. ... The stakes are high, and it's not just silly stakes. It's real stakes, and it comes out in silly ways."
Malick, a two-time Emmy nominee who scores some of the show's biggest laughs as the "motherzilla" of the bride, says overblown weddings like Alice and Danny's are comic catastrophes waiting to happen.
"It's the seminal ritual, that celebration that you so want to pull off without a hitch, and the more you try to pull something off without a hitch, the more you are destined to fulfill that prophecy [for disaster]," she says, laughing. "People overproduce these weddings out the wazoo, and you're just walking such a fine line between celebration and mourning."
Best known for her memorably over-the-top work as neurotic ex-model Nina Van Horn on "Just Shoot Me," Malick says she finds "Big Day" both funny and smart, and she especially likes how the absence of a studio audience lets the cast explore the human aspects of their tightly wound characters.
"There are some lovely scenes that are not about the joke," Malick says. "It's about 'How did these people get to this point?' Hopefully we're holding up a mirror to the people who watch it, and they say, 'Oh, I recognize that in myself.' "Jane sees her daughter's wedding as a much-needed creative outlet, Malick says.
"It's one of those typical things where a mother lives out her fantasies through her daughter, and this is the culmination of all of that," she says. "So the wedding day is her chance to show the world how successful she has been at raising this perfect child and having the perfect day and showing off her perfect house and fabulous family -- all of which is sort of an illusion.
"I think Jane is one of those really creative women who never found a calling, an outlet. She has this kind of faux crafts store, but I think if she had found a real cause, she wouldn't need to be pulling off a wedding like this. Instead, she kind of went down the rabbit hole."