Gina Rodriguez stars in “Not Dead Yet,” a new ABC sitcom following the “Jane the Virgin” alum playing a woman scrambling to get her life together. Although it has its charms, it’s decidedly average.
Premiering Feb 8 (8:30 p.m.), the show was created by David Windsor and Casey Johnson (“This Is Us”) and is about Nell Serrano (Rodriguez), a mid-thirties woman who has returned to her hometown of Pasadena several years after moving to London for a relationship that went up in flames. She’s trying to reconnect with old friends such as Sam (Hannah Simone, “New Girl”), the lifestyle editor at the local newspaper. But in Nell’s absence, Sam has become a mom and isn’t available for spontaneous nights out, anymore. Sam has also become close with their snobby boss Lexi (Lauren Ash, “Superstore”), which causes friction between the women.
When Sam helps her return to the newspaper, the only job Nell is able to get is writing obituaries in a miniscule office, even though she’d prefer to be an investigative journalist. At home, she also has to contend with uptight roommate Edward (Rick Glassman), who has strict rules about how she should treat his dog. It’s all based on the book “Confessions of a 40-Something F–k Up” by Alexandra Potter.
Things take a turn when Nell realizes that she can talk to the ghosts of the people she’s writing obituaries for, including a motivational speaker and a snarky musician of dubious success.
The show veers into big-hearted emotional territory that occasionally gets schmaltzy, with vague jargon about the importance of seizing the moment, and hanging in there when life doesn’t go according to plan. That material is often intercut with absurd antics. So the show’s tone oscillates between being a tad too sugary-sweet, and reaching for humor that lands about half the time.
For example, when Lexi stresses about the paper having low readership and wants to do a story on a trendy topic like drugs, she turns to an intern and says, “We’re going to enroll you at ‘Euphoria’ high school, somebody wire this kid up!” and a colleague has to remind her that HBO’s controversial “Euphoria” is not about a real high school.
“Not Dead Yet,” is not going to evoke gut-busting laughter, but there are plenty of wacky side characters to inject some fun, from Nell’s fastidious roommate to an overly competitive smug intern at her job. And the various ghosts give it an “issue of the week” episodic structure that so many serialized shows are lacking, these days.
“Not Dead Yet” isn’t solely a workplace comedy, nor is it a comedy about a frazzled woman trying to get her life together, in the tradition of “Fleabag,” or Amy Schmuer’s recent Hulu show “Life and Beth.” It’s a combination of the two – plus a dose of the CBS sitcom “Ghosts.” It doesn’t reach the height of any of these shows. But it’s pleasant enough.
“Not Dead Yet,” is more tepid than it should be. But it’s a fine Gina Rodriguez vehicle, and if you want to watch a network sitcom, you could do worse.