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Out of Order Works for Showtime

Showtime's original series Out of Order brings together a high-caliber cast to a story about the highs and lows of a long-term relationship.

The series gets its title from its chocolate-addicted lead character's failed attempt to purchase a candy bar from a vending machine, a vignette meant to symbolize the characters' lives. But it's not that cut-and-dry — the lives depicted here might not be perfect, but they're not exactly broken either.

The series is told through the eyes of Mark Colm (Eric Stoltz), a Hollywood screenwriter who works with and has remained faithful to his wife Lorna (Felicity Huffman), 16 years. That includes a painful bout of clinical depression and writer's block, which Lorna battles more with scotch and marijuana than she does with medicine.

Much of the 90-minute pilot is spent watching Mark try to keep up with the routine of running a household and his career as Lorna battles her twin demons of depression and addiction. Mark imagines his life as if it was a movie, which lets creators Wayne and Donna Powers (also a husband-and-wife screenwriting team) use his imaginings as a narrative device, often to good effect. For instance, when he's stuck feeding the pets, we see and hear what he imagines — their demanding food.

One of his household duties, ferrying 9-year-old son Walter (Dyllan Christopher) to soccer practice brings him in contact with Danni (Kim Dickens), the mother of one of Walter's teammates. Their friendship becomes a source of temptation for Mark as his relationship with Lorna hits more valleys than peaks.

Lorna finds solace through getting high and drunk with Steven (Huffman's real-life husband William H. Macy), a washed-up producer and a source of agitation for Mark. Stoltz plays Mark with a likeable self-awareness that makes it easy to empathize — he's a good guy in a tough situation, not sure whether he's growing apart from a wife who's not what she used to be.

And Huffman shines in that role, a far cry from the self-assured TV producer she once portrayed on the ABC series SportsNight. Hers is a vivid portrayal of a formerly type-A personality dealing with depression's guilt and shame.

The Out of Order
pilot contains many evocative scenes. If the series can sustain that momentum throughout its run, it could become a must-watch.

Out of Order
bowed June 1 on Showtime and repeats throughout the month.