ABC's new family comedy Imaginary Mary looks at what happens when a driven career woman who has no experience with (and little use for) kids falls in love with a man who's raising three of them. It turns out that for Alice (Jenna Elfman), the situation is just stressful enough to bring her old imaginary friend, Mary (voiced by Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch) back to the forefront of her mind. The resulting show is cute and definitely family friendly, but you might come away after watching an episode feeling like the show was missing a little bit of bite.
Alice was a child of screwy parents whose divorce early in her life left her needing some moral support. Since her folks were almost never there for her emotionally, Alice dreamt up Mary, an adorably noseless, short, white, fluffy imaginary friend with light blue spots, to help her through the hard times. Mary, who narrates the show, was Alice's unseen bestie through high school, but then, when Alice had grown up enough, Mary was (much to her chagrin) abandoned for the realities of adult life. Lucky for Mary, though, apparently there is nothing in Alice's adult life more stressful than meeting the children of her boyfriend of three months, Ben (Broad City's Stephen Schneider). The public relations maven was able to start and run her own major company for years without so much as breaking a sweat, but as soon as she agrees to be introduced to Ben's kids, Andy (Nicholas Coombe), Dora (Matreya Scarrwener) and Bunny (Erica Tremblay), Mary pops back up to help (sort of) guide her through this scary new life challenge.
Well, you can probably already tell that I think it's more than a little silly that Alice can run a company without getting so stressed out that Mary has needed to show up, but the idea of meeting Ben's three kids totally sends her into an emotional tailspin that requires the assistance of her sassy little furry friend. If you can get over that, though, which you probably can since you're willing to watch a show about a grown woman talking to her imaginary buddy, Imaginary Mary, from creators Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs), David Guarascio and Patrick Osborne, is a decent family show that only wastes some of its potential.
When Mary shows back up in Alice's life, right in the middle of her dinner with Ben at a Mexican restaurant, Alice is understandably shocked. But, by the time they get back to her super posh home, all Alice needs is a pep talk from Mary about the besties being back together and she's A-OK with her childhood imaginary friend being in her life again. Um, no. If I were a grown ass woman who could suddenly interact with her long-ago imaginary friend again, I would fear for my sanity for at least a few days. But, Alice just dives right back in, even going so far as to "take" Mary out on the town. The two hit the dance floor, drink and sing karaoke, and it's a good thing that Alice was visibly drunk so that no one thought it was weird when she held the mike out to an empty stool for Mary to sing.
While it would have been nice to see Alice have some more long term doubts about interacting with this version of her psyche, I also wanted Mary to be a little wilder. I was fully expecting her to be a constant source of trouble for Alice whenever she decided to take her advice; instead, Mary is sometimes the voice of reason when Alice isn't sure what to do. I don't feel that this was the wrong way for Imaginary Mary to go, per se (it certainly was a surprise), but it just feels that the show would be more fun and a bit less safe if Mary were an absolute loon who kept giving Alice bad advice that she makes sound like good ideas because of her sheer enthusiasm.
For what it's worth, Jenna Elfman is at her slightly daffy best as Alice. She makes the character believable as someone who'd be willing to take up with her imaginary friend as an adult, but who's also mature enough to run a company and maintain a healthy romantic relationship.