STATE OF GEORGIA “Pilot” Season 1, Episode 1 – I can’t remember the last time I watched anything featuring Raven-Symone. Although I’ve always had an idea of who she was, I only vaguely remembered her on The Cosby Show. By the time she developed into Disney fame, my tastes in television had moved in another direction and I had no interest in keeping up with any of her subsequent projects. I suppose that is why I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed her performance in the new ABC Family comedy, State of Georgia.

Perhaps long time fans of Raven-Symone already had a sense of her talent for physical comedy, but it was new to me and I appreciated Georgia as the over the top, slightly crazy, theater wannabe diva. Georgia is a New York transplant from the South looking to make it big on Broadway. There’s a fearlessness about her that is either a manifestation of her pampered upbringing, or an illusion of confidence built on her naivety. Had this been a drama, I would have expected to see Georgia’s positive attitude and wide eyed determination be trampled as she discovered the painful realities of being a struggling actor in New York. Since this is a comedy, we get to see her counteract a boorish casting director with a former-fat-kid complex using fried chicken, gravy and biscuits as a means of seduction.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Georgia and her best friend and coworker, Jo Pye, an awkward physics geek that gets swept up in Georgia’s whims. Majandra Delfino, who plays Jo, is delightful and hilarious as the straight character against Raven-Symone’s whacky schtick. The only thing I didn’t buy about Jo was the bit about her genetic disorder leading to bad hair. It was a running gag in this episode and I hope gets dropped in the future because it wasn’t very funny and seriously, her hair is not that bad.

In the vein of Suzanne Sugarbaker and Blanche Deveraux, Aunt Honey’s character seems to be another incarnation of the pampered Southern woman with an active sex life and a heart of gold. Although I was not fond of the Aunt Honey character at first, Loretta Devine’s comedic delivery won me over by the end of the episode and I have a feeling the character will continue to grow on me.

Because of the slapstick humor and the style of acting, I initially wanted to categorize State of Georgia as a family sitcom geared towards a younger audience. The first fifteen minutes reminded me of shows like Family Matters and Perfect Strangers, however, there is a peculiar sexuality that mingles its way in and doesn’t quite sync up with the overall tone. As bold as Georgia is and as funny as Raven-Symone is, it was still jarring to watch her character suddenly take a provocative turn even in a comedic way. Georgia reminds me more of Kelly Kapowski or Laura Winslow than she does Rachel Green or Grace Adler so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to see Georgia as a young adult role model in a wholesome family sitcom or if she’s supposed to be a zany young adult, doing adult things, in an adult sitcom. State of Georgia feels like some sort of not-quite-wholesome-not-quite-adult hybrid which throws me off a bit.

On the whole, however, I was much more impressed with the State of Georgia pilot episode than I had expected. There is room for improvement in the writing but at one point or another, each one of the characters made me laugh which might be considered a success in and of itself. As with most sitcoms, I suspect that the comedy will become stronger as the cast develops their characters and they settle into their roles, but for what it is, they are already off to a relatively strong start.