Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) is a total babe, with physical-comedy skills that, if properly honed, could approach Lucille Ball territory. In other words, she was basically born for TV. So why the heck isn’t she the focal point of Notes from the Underbelly? It’s pretty odd, since this semiserialized sitcom (based on a chick-lit novel by Risa Green) follows the first pregnancy of Lauren (Westfeldt), a college counselor at a swanky L.A. prep academy. The series is narrated by Lauren’s husband, Andrew (Peter Cambor), and here’s where things get weird: Andrew has about a third as many scenes as Lauren, and the couple share less screen time than Lauren does with her girlfriends Cooper (Rachael Harris), a slutty corporate lawyer, and Julie (Melanie Paxson), who can’t shut up about her own pregnancy.
Andrew’s narration shortchanges Lauren’s evolving attitude toward pregnancy (he talked her into it sooner than she wanted), which drove Green’s novel. Instead, Underbelly’s most trenchant observation is that marriage can be as dull and sexless for couples who’ve been married three years as for those hitched for 50—a point that’s already been hammered to death on braying CBS sitcoms such as Rules of Engagement and the blessedly defunct Yes, Dear.
Everything would be easier to swallow if the show hewed a little closer to reality: Andrew and Lauren complain a lot about their limited finances, but Lauren’s shoe collection rivals the Vogue fashion closet, and the couple’s house is the Valley equivalent of Monica and Rachel’s apartment on Friends. While Westfeldt’s comic chops are put to good use, she gets to show her serious side, too, and if the series gives her enough exposure to start competing with Hope Davis and Laura Linney for blond-WASP roles, Underbelly will have more than justified its existence. — Andrew Johnston