This is just what we need as the dark winter approaches. There’s a fresh, new star – well, new to many people – in a first-rate comedy.
The show – “B Positive,” at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays on CBS – is no surprise, really. It’s from producer Chuck Lorre, whose comedies range from good to great; its Nov. 5 debut is sandwiched between two of his shows, “Young Sheldon” and “Mom.”
The first two episodes offer the sort of sharp writing we expect from Lorre, plus a bonus. That’s Annaleigh Ashford (shown here winning a Tony award), one of the show’s two stars.
Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) plays Drew, a therapist whose life has crumbled. He’s divorced, has no real friends, doesn’t know his neighbors and can barely coax a shrug out of his teen daughter. And now he needs a kidney donor.
Everyone says “no” except Gina (Ashford), an ex-classmate he barely knows.
We’ve sort of met the character before, played by Goldie Hawn or Lisa Kudrow. She’s not stupid, but she doesn’t think things through. She’s caring, but clueless. Her life bounces around like a pinball. And yes, in the Hollywood tradition, she’s blonde.
Ashford seems to approach this in the way Johnny Depp does his “Pirates of the Caribbean” role, bringing a neat eccentricity to many of the lines. Viewers will wonder if they’ve seen her before.
Well, maybe. Ashford, 35, is already familiar to fans of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.” She played Betty DiMello, who started as a prostitute, married a rich guy, became a clinic receptionist and found a lesbian romance and a painful custody case.
She’s done a lot of other guest roles. And coming up next year is the FX mini-series about the Bill Clinton impeachment; Ashford is Paula Jones, an early Clinton accuser.
Mostly, though, she’s known on Broadway. She’s done five musicals and two plays there, winning a Tony in “You Can’t Take It With You” and being nominated in “Kinky Boots.” In lead roles, she understudied as Elle in “Legally Blonde” and took over the lead of Glinda in “Wicked.”
You might think that’s an overload of dumb-blonde roles, but remember this: In “Legally Blonde,” Elle graduates from Harvard and outsmarts the other lawyers. Lorre’s “Big Bang Theory” started by letting us think Penny was a dumb blonde; later, she sometimes was the wisest person in the room.
We like these characters – innocent, unfettered, but with a wellspring of optimism and decency. And Ashford plays her perfectly.