It's often easy to tell which shows networks order and then grow embarrassed about by the way they treat the programs. ABC didn't hold a "Work It" press conference for TV critics after the sitcom was mocked mercilessly by those who saw an early screener. "Work It" lasted just two episodes in January.
A critic could be forgiven for thinking NBC's "Best Friends Forever" fell into roughly the same category. NBC did not send a screener after ordering the show last May and failed to hold a panel on the show at the January Television Critics Association winter press tour. Disaster preparedness steps -- removing all sharp objects from the TV critic's screening room along with anything weighty enough to break a TV screen -- were warranted.
But, already-dated title aside, "Best Friends Forever" (8:30 tonight, WPXI) is not terrible. The single-camera comedy is not particularly memorable, but it could have been much worse.
The premiere episode begins inauspiciously as West Coast-based Jessica (Jessica St. Clair, "Bridesmaids") video chats with best friend Lennon (Lennon Parham, "Accidentally on Purpose") back in Brooklyn about her need to groom her nether regions -- only she talks about them in more graphic terms unsuited to a newspaper or the 8 o'clock hour of prime time.
Soon Jessica is served divorce papers and hightails it back to New York where Lennon lives in their old apartment that she now shares with her boyfriend, Joe (Luka Jones). This is where the conflict begins: Joe sees Jessica as an invader; Lennon tries to appease them both; comic misunderstandings ensue.
That sounds trite, but some of the situations and humor are recognizable. "BFF" grounds itself in specific details, like Jessica and Lennon bonding over "Steel Magnolias" and an oblivious Joe trying to horn in on their viewing of the movie that he awkwardly nicknames "Steely Mags."
Ms. Parham, in particular, makes a strong comedic impression with her flustered reactions and line deliveries. Even the gimmick of a precocious, African-American, 9-year-old girl who offers sassy running commentary on Jessica's misfortunes turns out funnier than it has any right to.
Perhaps future episodes go off the rails, and that's why NBC has been quiet about "BFF." But given the promotional ruckus the network made over the far more terrible-from-the-start "Are You There, Chelsea?" that's difficult to imagine.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.