“Trophy Wife” is one of this season’s most promising new comedies. It’s got a great cast, witty dialogue, and an uplifting message about the strength of blended families. Malin Ackerman plays Kate, a free-spirited woman woman who falls in love with an older, more stable man named Pete (Bradley Whitford of “The West Wing”). When she marries him, she becomes a stepmother to the three children he has by his two ex-wives, the type A Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) and the new age Jackie (Michaela Watkins). But the show’s title and promos might give you the wrong idea about what the series is actually about.
We’re here to set the record straight with these five things you need to know about “Trophy Wife,” before it premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
1. It’s Not Actually About a Trophy Wife. Yes, Kate is significantly younger than Pete. She’s also drop dead gorgeous because, well, she looks like Malin Ackerman. Kate is also someone who has put more effort into her social life than her career. But she is not a true trophy wife. She is not a brainless bimbo who is after Pete’s money. He doesn’t want a pretty young wife to validate his ego; he genuinely loves and respects her. ”The title ‑‑ we always meant it to be ironic,” explains executive producer Lee Eisenberg. Adds showrunner Sarah Haskins, “She’s trying to show people she’s not a trophy wife and she wants to be a mom and an involved parent.”
2. The Promos Are a Little Misleading. If you’ve watched ABC at all this summer, you’ve seen the promos for this show that paint Kate as a somewhat irresponsible and incompetent parent. Actually, when you watch the entire pilot, all of her seemingly inappropriate behavior makes sense and is rooted in a desire to be a responsible adult. In fact, some of the lines have been taken completely out of context. When her stepson Bert says, “You’re not even a real grown-up. Your car is full of garbage and shoes,” he’s actually talking to Kate’s best friend Meg (Natalie Morales).
3. It’s About a Truly Modern Family. The title “Modern Family” has already been taken, but it could just as easily apply to this show. While the other “Modern Family” features three conventional, single income, two-parent households, “Trophy Wife” focuses on a non-nuclear family. Kate and Pete’s ex-wives have a friendly, albeit complicated relationship. Haskins explains, “One of the things we liked about this show and always felt really important to us is that there’s no villain in the situation of a blended family. All of these parents are working very hard together to try to do something that’s not easy, which is raise kids and do the best for them. So I think you’re going to have a lot of strong women trying to do that. And that’s fun and cool.”
4. It’s Autobiographical. Haskins was inspired to create the show by her own life experiences. “I married my next‑door neighbor, a man 20 years my senior…. He’d been married three times before, but we didn’t think America could accept that.” Like Kate, Haskins was thrust into the role of stepmother. “It’s buying birthday presents for kids’ moms who used to be married to your husband. It’s meeting their family and trying to convince them you’re not some weird extra fourth wife, but you really want to be there and committed…. I had a teenage daughter who was instantly much, much cooler than I was as a teenager.”
5. It Was Also Inspired By the Three Bears. (Really!) When the writers created the characters of the ex-wives, they were inspired by the classic children’s story “Goldilocks & the Three Bears.” “It’s a little bit like the story of Goldilocks in that the first wife was, too cold, and then [Pete] kind of over-corrected,” said Eisenberg. “He was kind of like this very driven lawyer, and she was a very driven doctor and very Type A. And then he was like, ‘Oh, God,’ and then he went to Jackie and then kind of self‑corrected a little bit.” Kate is the baby bear, the woman who is just right.”
“Trophy Wife” premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.