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Books, Etcetera with Lynn Carey: Accidentally on Purpose

Lynn Carey, of the Contra Costa Times Book Club, dishes on how CBS may turn the memoir of single motherhood by Alameda author, Diablo contributor, and former Times film critic Mary F. Pols into a TV sitcom.

The cover image of Mary F. Pols memoir, Accidentally on Purpose, which may be turned into a CBS sitcom.

Courtesy of Mary F. Pols

I just read in Variety that former Dharma & Greg actress Jenna Elfman is going to be the lead in the pilot for Accidentally on Purpose. This is pretty interesting because the memoir on which the show is based was written by my friend Mary Pols, former movie critic for the Contra Costa Times and now a critic for Time magazine online, as well as a sometimes contributor to Diablo magazine. Mary used to sit next to me at the Times (as did, through the years, Anita Amirrezvani and Benoit-Denizet Lewis, both of whom have also published books—seriously, I should have grabbed that seat when I had the chance).

Mary’s book is amazing. It tells about her one-night stand that resulted in a baby boy (who is now almost five and truly may be one of the cutest little boys you’ve ever seen). The book is deep, smart and witty. But … CBS is apparently turning it into a sitcom, and that makes me nervous. I’m also having trouble picturing Jenna Elfman in the role of the woman who gets pregnant. I always think of Elfman as ditzy, and Mary Pols is the opposite of ditsy.

I decided to ask Mary her thoughts on it. Here’s what she says, in her always eloquent way:

“I sold the option for Accidentally on Purpose fully expecting that the whole thing would just vanish into the black hole of Hollywood. Very few options actually go anywhere. So I'm surprised and frankly, kind of freaked out by the fact that this appears to be happening. I joked, in the memoir, about how sitcom-like my life would be if say, Matt and I had moved in together to raise our baby as platonic friends.

And now it seems like it really could be a sitcom, with some important differences. For one thing, Matt and I co-parent from a distance of a few freeway miles. He lives in Oakland, I live in Alameda with our son, but I think CBS aims to have us shacking up. “And I have no doubt that the couple in the show will be destined to be together, in a classic happy ending kind of way. In real life, we're almost six years into this bizarre but workable relationship as friends who really love each other but aren't "together." It's complicated and sometimes confusing, but I think probably truer to a lot of peoples' experiences than the Knocked Up scenario that typically gets dished up by Hollywood.

“On the other hand, I have to say, Jenna Elfman is lovely, funny, and warm. Between 1997 and 2002, when Dharma & Greg was on, I was a single girl living in Oakland and I watched a lot more TV than I do now. And that show was a more than occasional guilty pleasure for me, largely because it was set in San Francisco and because I found Elfman so appealing. She's adorable, sexy, and has good comic timing. So I'm not going to complain at all about having her cast in ‘my’ part (the character now has a different name and works for a different paper). If I were just idly flipping through the channels and saw that she was playing a movie critic who gets pregnant on a one-night stand, hell, I'd give that show a try.”

And, so will I! I hope lots of people do, and dash out to buy the book.

For 12 years Lynn Carey has run the Times Book Club which now appears in the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune newspapers, as well as the Marin Independent Journal. For the past 17 years she's lived in Lafayette with her husband, Lamorinda Sun columnist Mike Zampa, and their two teenagers.