Alyssa Milano likes to think of her new sitcom Romantically Challenged (premieres tonight, ABC, 9:30 p.m. ET) as Friends for the Facebook and Twitter generation. “It’s edgy and real and about a group of friends who are functional and awesome when they’re together, but outside of their circle, they’re socially inept,” she says. The show, created by Ricky Blitt (who’s written for Family Guy and Politically Incorrect), follows Milano’s character — a lawyer and single mother named Rebecca — as she’s, say, encouraged to have her first one-night stand, and Kyle Bornheimer’s Perry — Rebecca’s childhood buddy who’s now a successful financial planner and Pittsburgh’s most hopeless romantic — as he struggles to please his girlfriend in the bedroom (she likes to be spanked). We recently grabbed a few minutes with Milano to discuss the show and administer a mini EW Pop Culture Personality Test…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you draw on any personal experience for the role?
ALYSSA MILANO: My bad dating? [Laughs] Yeah, I was a really bad dater to the extent that I hated doing it so much that I’d just jump into relationships. I’d just skip that whole dating part, which of course, never worked. I got married in August, and I married my best friend [Hollywood agent David Bugliari]. Lucky for me that I never had to date him, because I don’t think it would have lasted. [Laughs] He already accepted my quirkiness. My character is coming out of a 15-year marriage, so there are differences between her and I, but ultimately, I can totally relate to being terrified to get out there and being not good at it.
She has a 15-year-old son, which made me feel old. Did you read the script and go, I have a 15-year-old son?
I love that aspect because I feel like one, it’s real. Two, we weren’t gonna get in to that scenario of having a cute kid on the show that’s just there for punchlines. And also, it made sense that my son would be older so that he could handle Ricky Blitt’s writing.
Are there any characteristics you really want Rebecca to have? Sport knowledge, maybe? I know that’s important to you.
Yes. When you first start a show, it’s really about the writers getting to know you, so definitely as the show progresses, and if we’re blessed to have a season two, we’ll be able to incorporate more stuff like that. When you play a character for so long, it’s impossible to not have yourself come out in the character. She will definitely have my geekiness.
What kind of geekiness are we talking about?
Oh, all kinds. I don’t remember how it started, but it’s been going on forever: If I’m in an awkward social situation and there’s music playing, I’ll bust into the robot. I don’t know what it is. It makes me feel better.
It might feel like you’re owning the awkwardness then.
Yeah. That’s a perfect way to describe Rebecca: She owns her awkwardness. She doesn’t try to be anything than who she is, which is awkward. She never had to be anything else.
So will she be doing the robot then?
I hope so. That’s something I think people can relate to — all those little personal elements that make you have compassion for the characters.
How did the cast bond?
Beatles: Rock Band. I live about an hour outside of Los Angeles. I have horses in my backyard, so it really is a whole other world. We spent about five hours right before we started shooting playing Beatles: Rock Band. I’m the drummer, I’m Ringo. Everyone had pretty good voices.
That’s a nice segue into the Personality Test. What’s your go-to song on Rock Band?
On regular Rock Band, probably any Nirvana song.
When do you yell at the TV?
Sports. The Dodgers will make me scream in bliss and total agony.
The piece of memorabilia from your childhood you wish you still had?
I wish I still had my bucket from Annie. We had these silver buckets that we used for “Hard-Knock Life.” I was seven or eight [in a national touring company].
A person you wrote a fan letter to?
After reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, I wrote a fan letter to Dave Eggers.
The movie you have to watch every time you spot it on cable?
Searching for Bobby Fischer. I think I can relate to the child being in a high-pressured situation and excelling at a young age. And I love Chess.
Your guilty pleasure TV?
Any of the Real Housewives. Any of them.