Beyond the TV Grave: Trophy Wife

This is the 'Beyond The TV Grave' series where we shell out our thoughts on shows that were canceled after airing no less than 5 episodes and no more than 50.

Trophy Wife aired its first and only season in the 2013-14 television season, the year before ABC’s family comedy renaissance. It aired in the troubled Tuesdays at 9:30, with an OK-rated Goldbergs as a lead-in and various pulled-from-the-schedule flops airing at 10pm. It appears the name may have turned people off from the start; its 2.3 A18-49 premiere out of a 3.1 for The Goldbergs wasn’t much to brag about, and the nine tenth drop for its second episode wasn’t either. Its 1.12 A18-49 season average was a rounded-up 60% of the league average, and managed to go as low as a 0.7 for its penultimate episode. While it had its troubles, Trophy Wife truly was a hidden gem creatively. 

With just 22 episodes, it is easily binge-able in ABC’s app or on Look for the tab that says ‘Throwback’ and scroll, and you’re there. It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to skip the pilot. While it has its laughs, the characterizations of two the children are much different than they are in the rest of the series; in fact, the daughter is recast after the pilot. 

The premise of the show follows Pete Harrison (played by Bradley Whitfield of West Wing game), who is 49 years old and finally finds love in 30-year-old Kate Walrus (Malin Akerman). The catch is that Kate is his third wife, and his first two wives are still heavily present in his life; stern Dr. Diane Buckley (Marcia Gay Harden) because she doesn’t trust Kate with her kids, and anything-goes Jackie (Michaela Watkins) due simply to boundary issues. While Kate does not like to see herself as a “trophy wife” and is really trying to be as good of a parent as she is a wife, she on paper fits into that stereotype. “Not Your Average Trophy Wife” would be an apt title for the show.

Peter had two kids with Diane; Warren (Ryan Lee), who embodies a bit of Sue Heck from The Middle and Luke Dunphy from Modern Family; and Hillary (Bailee Madison), who quite frankly is basically a slightly altered version of Alex Dunphy. During his marriage with Jackie, he adopted Bert (Albert Tsai), who is very smart and sweet yet slightly narcissistic. Recurring characters include Meg (the Natalie Morales not on the Today Show), Kate’s best friend who hasn’t quite settled down yet. 

The dynamic of this dysfunctional super-family is certainly unique, and all provide laughs in their own individual ways. All three of Pete’s wives are polar opposites, making for great comedy when all are in the same room. There’s an emphasis on the fact that there are no real hard feelings between Pete and his ex-wives, they simply fell out of love over time. Even Diane and Jackie are slightly friendly with each other, with there being numerous scenes throughout the series involving the two doing something together. 

Trophy Wife was not perfect, as there were some minor continuity issues amongst episodes. If you ignore those (which is fairly easy to), you’ll see an underrated, sweet-but-slightly-edgy family comedy that belonged in a different 9:30 time slot: the one after Modern Family. With The Goldbergs growing 30% on Wednesday with a more compatible lead-in (yet similarly rated), it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Trophy Wife grow that much or even more. Alas, such a move never happened, and viewers will have to savor the 22 episodes that aired. The finale certainly left room for a season 2, but didn’t end on such a huge cliffhanger that one would be dissatisfied. 

Best Episode In The Series
There are many to choose from, but I’ll have to go with episode 16, titled “The Wedding, Part 1”. Guest starring Megan Mullally as Kate’s mom and he fact that Pete’s parents have the same name, this episode advances many characters and proves that character developing was very much a part of this show.

Best Interaction In The Series
Episode 13: The Tooth Fairy
Pete: “Where’s Bert?”
Jackie (sarcastically): “I lost him, but don’t worry. I replaced him with an old Asian man I keep in a box.”

Best Video Clip
Episode 10: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas...or ‘Twas It
Only on this show will a man, his wife, and his two ex-wives accidentally get drunk together on Christmas Eve after the 7-year-old spikes their holiday drinks behind their backs.

What do you think? Did I convince you to watch Trophy Wife? Remember, it gets even better as it goes. Let me know in the comments below!

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