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'Get Real' needs to take its own advice

Sunday, September 05, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

"Get Real," premiering Wednesday on Fox, embodies almost every trend apparent in this fall's new shows. It's got teens, characters talking to the camera, a generally coarse atmosphere and a bully who threatens to eat the hero's dog.

OK, so maybe that last item isn't a trend, but the same threat is uttered in the pilot for "Harsh Realm."

The style of "Get Real" is reminiscent of creator Clyde Phillips' "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," but the substance is pretty fluffy and without depth.


'Get Real'

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday on Fox.

Starring: Debrah Farentino, Jon Tenney, Christina Pickles.


Ostensibly a "family drama," Phillips makes no bones about the Greens and their varied crises.

"We didn't put the fun in functional," says middle son Kenny (Jesse Eisenberg).

But, oh how they try.

Dripping with pop culture references, the show doesn't wink at the audience, it jumps up and down waving its arms begging for attention.

"I know what you're thinking," brainy and beautiful Meghan (Anne Hathaway) says in a rambling internal monologue. "This is another one of those smart-ass shows where the kids talk to the audience like on 'Dawson's Creek,' which actually come to think of it, I'm not even sure does voice-overs."

There are also references to "7th Heaven" (twice), "South Park," "My So-Called Life," "The Addams Family," "3rd Rock from the Sun," "Cheers" and Paul Newman, who hyper, ADD-afflicted teen Cameron (Eric Christian Olsen) knows only as "a salad dressing."

Granted, Fox's target audience grew up with pop culture as a third parent, but "Get Real" takes it too far, especially in an emotional scene between parents Mary (Debrah Farentino) and Mitch (Jon Tenney). Their marriage is on the rocks and they're having a tense argument.

"If you can't get all the way to loving me, at least try to understand me," Mitch says.


"If this was 'Cheers' we'd have sex right now," Mary replies.

Not only is the crack out of character, it completely undercuts the drama of the scene.

Heaven forbid "Get Real" should take anything seriously. Certainly not teen sex. Mary discovers Cameron's girlfriend spent the night in his bed, but she doesn't scream. She doesn't get too upset. She passes the buck to her husband, who replies, "It's completely unacceptable, but I have a meeting five minutes ago," before leaving the house.

Some families you see on TV and wish you were a part of them. "Get Real" won't make many viewers feel that way.

While characterized as a show about family, it's clear the teens of "Get Real" will take center stage. In the original pilot, Meghan is about to graduate from high school. In the slightly revamped first episode airing this week, she's just starting her senior year, ensuring a full season of high school for her character - if the show lasts that long.

The weird thing is this: I'm still curious to see how "Get Real" develops. It has a unique style with narration bleeding from one character to another.

As Meghan, Anne Hathaway is a stand out. And a major babe. Katie Holmes needs to watch her back.

Eisenberg is dutifully sensitive as the youngest Green, but his character is given such self-aware dialogue it's more difficult to cheer for him than it should be.

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