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Jennifer Love Hewitt's spin-off series misfires

Sunday, October 24, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Maybe there's an overabundance of earnest young people on TV.

Maybe the characters on "Party of Five" have outworn their welcome.

Or maybe Jennifer Love Hewitt's Sarah is just too dewey-eyed and sweet to be believed.

Sure, she's attractive, but that's not enough to have the "Time of Your Life" watching her new Fox series. Better writing would help, but more than anything the hour-long drama could use an original premise.

In the premiere episode tomorrow at 8 p.m. on WPGH, Hewitt's "Party of Five" character spins off to New York eager to meet her biological father.


"Time of Your Life"

When: Monday night, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Johnathon Schaech, Diego Serrano, Jennifer Garner, Pauley Perrette.


She's so excited she starts talking to a stranger at the airport baggage carousel. When she stops to take a breath, the foreigner suggests a sexual rendezvous.

Get it? She's a babe in the woods of skyscrapers in big bad New York and her first encounter is with some creep suggesting they have a "sexy adventure." Poor little Sarah!

On "Party of Five," Sarah was adopted and went by her adoptive parents' last name, Reeves. Now she's taken her dead biological mother's last name, Merrin, and she's desperately seeking the father she's never met so she can "figure out who I am, where I came from and what it all means."

Judging by this episode, it means many tears and a lot of wistful thinking.

The impossibly perky Sarah romanticizes her mother's apartment building. She looks longingly at it and tries to pick out which apartment was mom's.

"I bet she used to throw keys down to my dad when the buzzer was broken," Sarah says. Do people really talk like this? They may think something that gooey, but would anyone actually say it?

When Sarah gets inside her mother's old apartment, she looks around and sighs, "Maybe that's where they made me."

I just about lost it. It's a line that made me want to hurl things at my TV or at least gag.

Never the wallflower, Sarah moves in with Romy (Jennifer Garner), an aspiring actress who lives in Sarah's mom's old apartment. The pair ogle a guy (Diego Serrano) in the building next door and bicker with Cecilia (Pauley Perrette), the corrupt apartment manager.

Record store clerk and musician-in-hiding Maguire (Johnathon Schaech) makes goo-goo eyes with Sarah, but a waitress (Gina Ravera) keeps interrupting their almost-romantic moments.

The episode of "Time of Your Life" airing tomorrow night is actually the second attempt at a pilot for the show. Fox executives dumped the original because it had "a little too fabulous tone to it," said executive producer Christopher Keyser, who created the series with Amy Lippman. The pair also developed "Party of Five," which was a quality series in its early years, but there are few redeeming qualities apparent in "Time of Your Life."

Hewitt emotes nicely on cue, and there were a few scenes where I felt bad for her character. But mostly I found her tiring. This "Party of Five" spin-off comes about two years later than it should have; the character of Sarah has been around too long to merit a new series.

Hewitt, who has released a couple of pop music albums, gets to sing - twice. In this first hour Sarah also gets arrested, stalks several men she suspects to be daddy dearest and comes to the realization that to have a life of her own she must stay in New York.

"Felicity" mined this same territory last season and did it better. From Felicity's search for her identity to her friend's search for her biological mother, "Felicity" touched on the same themes in the same city. Maybe "Time of Your Life" was on the drawing boards at Fox before "Felicity," but it can't help but be a retread.

I doubt discriminating teens will follow Sarah on her journey. Judging by the premiere, there's no reason they should.

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