Fall TV Preview: 'Malibu Country'
Photography: Edward Herrera/Courtesy American Broadcasting Companies Inc.
ABC's Malibu Country is scheduled to premiere on November 2.
Reba McEntire enjoyed considerable success with her long-running self-titled sitcom, even in markets throughout the world where she wasn’t already familiar as the Queen of Country Music. So most folks in and out of the TV industry figured it was only a matter of time before she’d return to the airwaves in another custom-made star vehicle. The arrival of Malibu Country — a series scheduled to debut in November on ABC — means the wait is over.
Much like Reba, Malibu Country is meticulously tailored to the talents of its vivacious lead player. Unlike Reba, however, the new series actually has McEntire cast as a country music artist. In the half-hour comedy, she plays Reba Gallagher, a country singer-songwriter who put her own career on hold to be a dutiful wife and mother while her superstar husband (Jeffrey Nordling) savored the spotlight.
But when Reba finds that charts aren’t the only things that the unfaithful louse is topping, she files for divorce and moves from Nashville to a spacious Southern California home — evidently, her last remaining asset — with her two teenage children (Justin Prentice and Juliette Angelo) and her blunt-spoken mom (an effectively cast-against-type Lily Tomlin).
The Malibu Country pilot, which screened to receptive audiences in June at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, quickly establishes what could be a serviceable sitcom premise: Reba struggles to reestablish herself professionally while she and her loved ones adjust to their new lives as fish out of water. Two broadly written and played supporting characters — an overly friendly next-door neighbor (Sara Rue) and a fey music agent (Jai Rodriguez) — will no doubt vie for their share of laughs along with the alternately sage and daffy granny played by Tomlin.
Ultimately, though, the show’s success or failure will depend on whether viewers once again develop a rooting interest in Reba McEntire. Our prediction? It’s never smart to bet against the queen.