If you’re a non-acolyte to the religion of 24, among the things that might turn you off is the Murphy’s Law nature of the series. Everything that can possibly go wrong for Jack Bauer in a day does, usually spectacularly, and after the third or fourth catastrophe, you might start thinking, "Good lord, what now?"
But what if instead of saving the world, Jack Bauer had to save, say, a wedding? Such is the notion behind ABC’s Big Day, in which every calamity you think of to befall a young couple (Josh Cooke and Marla Sokoloff) on their wedding day — and several you wouldn’t think of — does, with the day leading up to "I do" covering the entire season. Comedy, as they say, ensues.
Whether audiences really warm to Big Day will depend a lot on their ability to roll with the pile-it-on nature of the plot. In the first three episodes alone, Danny (Cooke, Four Kings) and Alice (Sokoloff, The Practice) must contend with a father of the bride (Kurt Fuller) with big doubts about his future son-in-law, battles over theme music and salad, a lost seating chart and a leaky and structurally unstable reception tent.
It gets a little wearisome, which is a shame, because there are a number of things to like amid the chaos, particularly the work of several actors.
Playing the bride’s Caesar salad-despising mother, Wendie Malick anchors the show with a performance that barely conceals the stack-blowing stress she’s feeling; she’s as wickedly sharp as always. Miriam Shor and Stephen Rannassizi also have nice anti-chemistry as the bride’s sister and groom’s best friend, who slept together the previous night, right before she swallowed his contact lenses and rendered him legally blind. MADtv alum Stephnie Weir, as a put-upon wedding planner, and guest star Stephen Tobolowsky, who shows up as Danny’s dad in episode two, bring the funny as well.
As for the happy couple themselves, Sokoloff and Cooke get lost in the shuffle at first. They start to come into their own in later episodes, though, alleviating concerns that Big Day will be a show in search of a center.
The production also goofs on itself a little, using intentionally overwrought music at key points and even mimicking 24‘s visual style in its "previously on" recaps at the opening of episodes.
But there’s still that structural problem. The show isn’t quite as slavish to its real-time conceit as 24 is; about three hours of show time elapses in the first three episodes. But I have to wonder how many more burdens the "Big Day" writers can lay at the feet of this family before they decide, "You know what? Let’s just go to Vegas and be done with it." And whether viewers will be asking, "Hmm, wonder what’s happening on House."