A Show That Only a Pre-Mother Can Love

By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 12, 2007

If words like "pregnancy test," "maternity underwear" and "breast pump" make you chuckle, then there's a new show you should watch.

"Notes From the Underbelly," ABC's new sitcom about a married couple's first adventure down the bumpy road of pregnancy, uses all these devices, sometimes effectively, for gags.

But for the rest of the viewing population, there's nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

"Underbelly" does indeed aim narrow, likely appealing only to those who are pregnant or have recent memories of it.

For those on board, though, the laughs do come thanks to some inspired casting by the show's executive producers, who include Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the "Men in Black" movies and other blockbusters.

Virtual unknowns Peter Cambor and Jennifer Westfeldt star as Andrew and Lauren, the married couple contemplating babyhood. They're slightly neurotic. Early on, he tells us, "I love my wife. She's a huge pain in the [rear end], but I love her."

They hem and haw over getting pregnant, eventually do get pregnant and then hem and haw all over again about whether they should have gotten pregnant.

Sound tedious? It can be, but the two are able to capture those feelings of dread that some couples can go through before the blessed event, pondering the lack of sleep, lack of time and lack of money that await them.

We meet other characters who either completely embrace or are horrified by pregnancy. The couple's friend Julie (Melanie Paxson) is just thrilled to be pregnant. Really, she just loves everything about it, right down to the aforementioned maternity underwear.

Blithely ignoring the rules of etiquette, in tonight's pilot episode Julie throws herself a big old baby shower for which she decorates her whole house in pink (yes, she's having a girl). Each guest is given a "onesie" to decorate for the yet-to-be-born baby.

It's grotesque, funny and (some baby shower attendees may agree) all too real.

"What's the point of having a shower that costs more than you'll make back in gifts?" Andrew asks.

On the other end of the spectrum is Lauren's friend Cooper (Rachael Harris), a hypersexual, bitter divorce attorney who keeps condoms in her late grandmother's antique cigarette case.

Motherhood is not an option for her.

She warns Lauren about the "mommy cult," whose members like to talk about the size of their child's head or "tummy time." "I mean, what the hell does that even mean?" she scoffs during a power walk with Lauren.

If you know what "tummy time" means, "Underbelly" could indeed be worth a look.

Notes From the Underbelly (30 minutes) premieres tonight with a one-hour episode on WJLA (Channel 7 at 10).

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