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TV Review: 'Brutally Normal' is just an average show

Monday, January 24, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Time to be brutally honest.

In another TV environment, "Brutally Normal" might be a unique series about the semi-surreal lives of teens at a suburban high school. But with so many other youth shows on the air, it comes across as just another teen show.

Granted, it's a comedy as opposed to The WB's slew of teen dramas, but with its tangents into imagination and film and pop culture parody, "Brutally Normal" is a latter day "Parker Lewis Can't Lose." Nothing more, nothing less.

"Normal" premieres at 9 tonight with two back-to-back episodes before settling into the 9 p.m. time slot next week, where it will be followed by the returning "Zoe" (formerly "Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane").

Tonight's "Normal" premiere is not the show's pilot, which was supposedly much darker in tone. The show's producers say "Brutally Normal" was conceived as a half-hour single-camera show - no studio audience, no laugh track - but ABC wanted it to be an hour-long drama. When ABC passed, The WB got on board and allowed the show to return to the original half-hour premise, but they wanted the show a little sunnier (i.e. one of the characters' sexual identity confusion is absent in early episodes).

"Brutally Normal" is about three outcasts: Russell (Eddie Kaye Thomas of "American Pie") is the romantic, Pooh (Mike Damus of "Teen Angel") is a wise guy and Anna (Lea Moreno of UPN's "Legacy") is the tomboy with a fun-loving friend, Dru (Tangie Ambrose).

 
    TV Review: "Brutally Normal"

When: Tonight at 9 on WCWB.

Starring: Eddie Kaye Thomas, Mike Damus, Lea Moreno.

 
 

In the first episode Russell falls for an older woman at an art gallery (cue parody scene from "The Graduate"), Anna tries to prevent an awful picture from being published in the Normal High yearbook and Pooh wants desperately to be in a candid shot in the yearbook.

The most interesting character may be Lenny (guest star Sean Gunn), the school's yearbook editor and Matt Drudge wannabe. He blackmails Anna into a date in exchange for the negative of her poor picture.

In the second episode, Russell inadvertently barricades himself inside the school principal's office.

Both episodes dabble in scenes from the characters' imaginations, which brings to mind The WB's superior one-hour comedy "Popular." In the first episode, Anna imagines herself in a catsuit - a la Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment" - as she tries to recapture her photo. In the second, Russell has visions of talking to Thomas Jefferson.

Damus, who was the best thing about the short-lived "Teen Angel," remains a star waiting to happen, but this won't be the show to catapult him to higher fame.

"Brutally Normal" tries to rise above the norm - and it's not an awful show - but there's nothing special about it either.



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