NEW YORK—Production has begun on 12 episodes of The Woman With Mild Psychic Powers, a new HBO half-hour sitcom that is already creating a buzz due to its lack of a cutting edge. Playing against HBO’s reputation for groundbreaking and award-winning entertainment, Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment, today announced plans for the series.
“It is exactly like other things you have seen before,” said Strauss. “That’s what’s so different about it.”
Executive producer Tom Havelock agrees. “If anything, The Woman With Mild Psychic Powers is on the opposite edge from the one that cuts,” he explained. “It’s on the blunt edge, the one you keep toward yourself while cutting, so as not to suffer an injury of some kind.”
The Woman With Mild Psychic Powers follows the adventures, mix-ups, and romantic entanglements of Sara Smalls, a woman with mild psychic powers. According to Havelock, the first season offers no surprises for the viewer.
Havelock describes the show as a “light” comedy that does not skewer anything. “Skewers are sharp and dangerous,” he said. “I would rather not be anywhere near one. That goes for my kitchen, and that goes for my comedy. What I want to do is give the audience an outside look at popular culture. Very, very far outside, where it’s nice and safe. Like a bear in a zoo. And not one of those modern zoos where you’re right up close to the bears. I’m not even sure there will be any references to popular culture, especially biting ones. Who wants to be bitten? It hurts, and can cause an infection. Did you know a person’s mouth is dirtier than a dog’s? Or a bear’s?”
“It’s wonderful to be with these kind of people!” exulted series star Lori Planchette. “The kind of people who are not afraid not to take chances. That’s so rare in this business.”
Strauss recalled the meeting at which the show was first pitched. “Tom asked me to imagine a field of ground that has been utterly broken. Then, he said, what if we came across a small patch of ground that was not broken? And what if, rather than breaking it, we put up sort of a barrier around it and made sure that no one stepped on it or disturbed it in any way? And then he said, ’That’s what I want to do with this show.’ I got a chill. And I still have that same chill today. I firmly believe that by daring not to break ground, we will be able to do something completely precedented. And I think people are ready for that.”
As for the torrents of cursing that most average citizens indulge in constantly during their day-to-day lives, HBO has given Havelock and his crew the freedom to hold back on such dialogue. The result? Characters in The Woman With Mild Psychic Powers speak in a stylized way that falls quite shy of the limits, certainly not within pushing range. The envelope, also, remains unpushed in this respect.
The same bridled attitude applies to the sexual activity that real people sometimes enjoy in the privacy of their own homes.
“Having my clothes on is integral to the spirit of the series,” confirmed Planchette. “On any other show maybe I wouldn’t have done it, but Tom is a genius.”
Havelock admires Planchette just as much. “Lori brings something so old, so usual, to her part. Considering some of the things she’s done in the past, it’s pretty amazing how much like those things this is.”
“There are zero celebrity cameos,” he promised, “and that includes big-name stars of the ‘80s and ’90s outrageously spoofing their own images, so watch out for that not to happen. And there’s an incredible list of taboos we’re planning to ignore completely. Everything from abortion to terrorism to gay marriage will not be dealt with in a slyly subversive manner. Most of all, we are going to avoid the temptation to cleverly blur the line between fiction and reality. That would just be confusing for people.”
With its average writing, competent acting, and under-the-top moderation, The Woman With Mild Psychic Powers aims squarely for the middle … and hits it every time. In the series pilot, Sara almost mashes her thumb in a car door but pulls it out at the last second. The series is slated to debut Monday nights on HBO’s fall schedule, following back-to-back episodes of The Surfing Hobo Chronicles.