TV Review: ABC’s “Imaginary Mary”

I was dreading watching the provided screeners for this show (we were given to first two episodes to watch.) It looked fine, and I love me some Rachel Dratch, but I audibly went “Really?” when the trailer was released during ABC upfronts last spring. However, I am happy to say, this show really surprised me and I came out a huge fan.

I know what you’re saying “THIS?!” and I agree, but it’s great! I promise!

The show follows Jenna Elfman (someone, I would argue, who deserves a solid leading vehicle after bouncing from failed one season-long sitcom to another to another) as Alice. Alice’s childhood was rough, as her parents messy divorce led to them not really being in her life as she grew up. To combat this, she created Mary, her imaginary friend voiced excellently by the underrated Rachel Dratch. Mary helped Alice through everything growing up and became her one true friend. However, once Alice hit 18, Mary disappeared from her brain, as she wasn’t needed anymore.

Fast forward a decade or two to current day Alice. She’s a successful PR executive who don’t need no man (thanks to some feminist teachings via Mary) until she meets Ben. They click and begin to connect, even though Alice is terrified of Ben’s three kids. The introduction of the kids brings Mary back into Alice’s life, much to the surprise of Alice and, frankly, Mary.

From here, the show starts its main goal of Mary trying to help Alice navigate a relationship she is completely in love with, and yet, scared by at the same time. Alice is afraid of children and has the constant fear of ruining everything for them and her relationship, understandably so. ABC comedies have been very family-centric recently and they have done incredibly well. I love Speechless, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Real O’Neals with every fiber of my being. However, we haven’t seen a show with the protagonist actually scared of the concept of a strong family. It goes back to Alice’s childhood, as she doesn’t want to fail these kids and her boyfriend. I find it incredibly refreshing.

The kids are great, with Andy (the oldest, anxiety-filled, awkward, and has a personally relatable storyline in the second episode), Dora (the middle kid who is a quintessential middle kid and suspicious of Alice from the get-go), and Bunny (the youngest, played by Erica Tremblay, brother to Jacob, and who gets my favorite line of the episodes I viewed, “Why do we bury people!?”) all getting their due and becoming instantly engaging.

Jenna Elfman is grabs your attention from the show’s open, as you understand her struggle and her fears about her future in this relationship. I get it. You want to walk her through it personally, but Mary takes that role for us, even though she isn’t always the most helpful.

And now, I’d like to write my 20-page senior thesis on Rachel Dratch. Y’all, Rachel as Mary is so good. SO good. More Rachel Dratch in things, Hollywood! She is hilarious, comforting, exactly what you’d expect from an imaginary friend who returns after a long lapse, and genuinely wants to see good in Alice. I laughed at a lot of her lines, and the consistent visual of Alice interacting with Mary, even though she’s not there in real-life, is a consistently humorous visual (a karaoke duet between the two is genius). She also has Lisa-Kudrow-in-BojackHorseman syndrome, where she only can make references to pop culture from 20-30 years ago, which is a freaking riot. It results in a wonderful Cosby joke.

Did I expect to fall in love with the ABC comedy about the imaginary friend? Absolutely not. However, it was instantly relatable, smart, and a interesting concept done very well. Once again, the spring midseason Tuesday sitcom is great (Sorry The Muppets, even though I loved you, The Real O’Neals deserved the 2nd season. I would say this once deserves a 2nd season, as well.) Trust me on this one (I have lead y’all astray before, and I am sorry, but this one is FUN!), watch Imaginary Mary.

Imaginary Mary gets 4.5 mom dances out of 5.

Imaginary Mary premieres a sneak peek on Wednesday, March 29th at 830pm, but will enter its normal Tuesday at 930pm time slot on April 4th, all on ABC.

Marshal Knight
Marshal Knight is a pop culture writer based in Orlando, FL. For some inexplicable reason, his most recent birthday party was themed to daytime television. He’d like to thank Sandra Oh.