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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.

Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.