or those interested, the Fox new drama, The American
Embassy, was actually called Emma Brody after its lead character
played by newcomer Arija Bareikis, who looks like a healthy Calista Flockhart.
The show's title was changed to The American Embassy in the aftermath of
the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and in a way the move could be seen as catering
to the patriotic fervor in America at the moment. Then again, the show is
based on an American woman working in the American embassy in London, so the
change of name seems appropriate, and even smart on the part of the producers.
The American Embassy opens with a very interesting
and fast-moving Teaser. We meet Emma and learn, in less than a minute, her life
up to his point. Ohio State college graduate who dropped out of law school but
is now looking for a change of scenery from her overbearing mother, her soulmate
of a sister, and a fiancée who cheated on her before their wedding. On the
plane ride over, Emma encounters Doug Roach (David Cubitt), a charming American
with a satchel handcuffed to his wrist. Doug is a CIA spook who also works at
the American embassy in London and who immediately charms his way into Emma's
life. They have a brief encounter in the plane's bathroom until Emma decides she
doesn't want to be a part of the Mile High club. Arriving in London, Emma is
almost run over by a car "going in the wrong direction," and here ends
the Teaser. Let me just say that this is one of the best Teasers I've seen in a
while for any pilot show. Fast, informative, and funny.
Surprisingly for a drama, The American Embassy
manages to maintain its fast, brisk pace throughout the pilot. An amazing feat,
as many dramas are incapable of blending good pacing with an interesting
storyline, and it seems to be a matter of either/or. The American Embassy
looks and feels like a series of greeting cards flashing onscreen. Emma narrates
the entire episode in a letter to her sister Jules back at home, adding to the
postcard vibe. The scenes flow very well into each other and despite quick
introductions and quick exits of various characters, some at the Embassy and
others at home, we get a good feel for all of them. This may be because of the
good actors involved, as everyone seems to have a firm handle on their parts.
This is a big problem with a lot of pilots because of the time limits and the
need to introduce everyone quickly in spurts of "Hey, I'm this, I do that,
see ya" before the credits roll. The American Embassy doesn't seem
to have the same problem. Although I have to admit that there were so many
characters I didn't quite remember everyone's name without having to confer with
the credit list, although strangely enough I remember their jobs. Greg the
neighbor and Doug the CIA agent were the two standouts besides Bareikis as
The one thing that is imperative for any series of any
genre to work is the likeability of its lead (or leads). Producer/creator James
Parriott has struck gold with Arija Bareikis, a relative newcomer to television
(or at least to me), who is likeable, vulnerable, and smart at the same time.
It's very easy to empathize with 28-year old Emma, as she is overwhelmed with
London, her job, and an emerging love triangle between her, Doug, and a handsome
British Lord who has a fiancée. Add to that a runaway 12-year old American girl
hiding with her father, a roommate whose idea of sex is to let everyone in the
country know about her every orgasmic moments, and a cross-dressing neighbor who
turns out to be the perfect neighbor.
As Doug, the enigmatic CIA agent, David
Cubitt is a terrific addition. His cool and calm demeanor perfectly compliments
Emma's confused and erratic life. Another actor who plays the third part of the
love triangle doesn't fare so well, as he comes across as vanilla and, well,
boring. Another peripheral character, Dewey, ends up having a great impact as an
American tourist who blackmails the Embassy to send him back home to the States
by taking off his clothes and refusing to leave.
The episode's director, Stephen Surjik, does a great job of
weaving through the hustle and bustle of an ordinary day at the Embassy and
still keep everything coherent. We get a good feel for Emma's job and her bosses
and colleagues. The show also makes good use of music to compliment the scenes
In a nutshell, The American Embassy introduced
itself well, showing it has a firm handle on its characters and most
importantly, its lead. The pilot ends with a gut-wrenching event that is sure to
carry onto the second episode. It also ensures that I will be there.