Miss Guided

Movies
4 out of 5 stars
HER LIPS ARE SEALED Kutcher asks Greer to keep it zipped.
Photograph: Richard Catrwright/ABC HER LIPS ARE SEALED Kutcher asks Greer to keep it zipped.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Ten years ago, Miss Guided’s multiple narrators, frequent cutaways and nonexistent laugh track would have earned creator Caroline Williams’s sitcom a rep as being too experimental for prime time. Today, in the wake of Malcolm in the Middle, Scrubs, Arrested Development and My Name Is Earl, its style seems downright conventional—and, with luck, that will make it easier for a wide audience to respond to its considerable charms.

Judy Greer’s recurring role as breast-baring secretary Kitty Sanchez on Arrested Development proved her to be a gifted physical comedian with an everywoman brand of sexiness that, in her new series, makes her seem both easy to identify with and desirable as hell (depending on your gender and orientation). In many ways, her character—high-school guidance counselor Becky Freeley—is a female version of Scrubs’s J.D. Although Becky is unquestionably the lead, she shares narration duties with a number of colleagues, including Kristoffer Polaha as the rumpled Spanish teacher she pines for and Chris Parnell (30 Rock’s Dr. Spaceman) as a blustery vice principal. Office politics get more attention than the students, and former geek Becky’s rivalry with fashion-conscious English teacher Lisa Germain (Brooke Burns)—both attended the school where they work—provides the requisite tension.

Back-to-back episodes air on Thursdays through April 3, and the doubling up calls attention to how much work Williams put into defining the characters. The first of this week’s episodes features a terrific guest turn by executive producer Ashton Kutcher as a hippiefied substitute Spanish teacher whose stupidity has a whimsical air to it that elevates him well above the realm of cliché. It takes just two episodes for Miss Guided to feel like a show that’s been on for five years, and the polish should considerably increase the odds on its survival.

—Andrew Johnston

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