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TV Reviews: Three witless shows make debuts tonight

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

It's not unusual to be repelled while reviewing a new series; it's pretty common with UPN shows. The network's new half-hour series "As If" (9 tonight) upped the ante: Watching it actually gave me a headache.

Filled with quick cuts and a nonstop blaring soundtrack, "As If" comes off as the crack-addicted offspring of "NYPD Blue" and "Queer as Folk." The show doesn't jump from scene to scene as much as it jumps from one fragment of a scene to another.

 
 
"As If"

When: 9 tonight on UPN.

Starring: Emily Corrie

   
 

Based on a popular British series of the same name, "As If" follows the exploits of a group of six "young urban adults" in their late teens and early 20s. They seem to hang out on what looks like a college campus, but there's no indication they attend class.

In tonight's premiere, they mostly waste time in a dark club (hence the "Queer as Folk" comparison) where desperate Jamie (Derek Hughes) pines for unattainable Nicki (Adrienne Wilkinson).

"She's major league, you're Little League," says Sooze, played by Emily Corrie, a member of the original British "As If" cast. The tattooed and pierced Sooze has reason to dissuade Jamie -- she may have a crush on him.

Other friends include self-centered Rob (Chris Engen) and his girlfriend Sasha (Tracie Thoms) and gay Alex (Robin Dunne), who has little to do in the premiere.

"As If" comes from the same producers who created the original British series, an unusual arrangement. Usually American producers buy the rights to a foreign show and then dumb it down. Maybe "As If" was already in that state.

On a niche network that caters to pretentious, nihilistic, brain-jangling fare, "As If" might not seem so out of place, and the experimental elements -- it looks as if it were filmed by college art students -- would be less nauseating.

Coming after a pop hit like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the audience response to "As If" will likely mirror its derisive title: Watch this show? As if.

'The Random Years' (9:30 tonight, UPN)

Compared to the assault perpetrated on viewers by "As If," "The Random Years" is gentle as a soft breeze -- and just as quickly forgotten.

 
 
"The Random Years"

When: 9:30 tonight on UPN.

Starring: Will Friedle

   
 

We've seen the setup before -- three twentysomething guys live in a New York apartment, pining for love -- and the same goes for the lead, Will Friedle, last seen on ABC's "Boy Meets World."

He's all grown up now, and to the credit of creators Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger, Friedle's Alex and the others are more like real people than most sitcom guys. They're not too hip for the room (Alex refers to them as "the Legion of Dorks" in an upcoming episode) and their love lives are not overflowing with sexcapades.

But the show's genial nature isn't enough to make up for scripts with a dearth of laughs and stories that are as familiar as they are tired.

'The Osbournes' (10:30 tonight, MTV)

Consider this the reality TV version of "The Addams Family."

Ozzy Osbourne and his family opened up their Beverly Hills home to MTV's cameras and the results will be chronicled in this weekly series.

When "The Osbournes" premieres tonight, Ozzy Osbourne and his wife, Sharon, open their Beverly Hills home to MTV's cameras. (Michael Yarish, Associated Press/MTV)
"The Osbournes"
When: 10:30 tonight on MTV.
Starring: Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy comes off as fairly subdued (he plays with the family's cats instead of biting their heads off). Sometimes he seems like a doddering little old man. He moves slowly and can't figure out how to work the family's technologically advanced television remote control. He even parents.

"Don't drink, don't take drugs, please," Ozzy tells his kids. "And if you have sex, wear a condom."

Wife Sharon, who is also Ozzy's manager, is partial to the F-word (bleeped by MTV), which is also used with great frequency by Ozzy and the couple's two youngest children, Jack, 16, and Kelly, 17.

MTV's editors have great fun with "The Osbournes." They show Ozzy charging up the stairs with a rifle and later attaching a bayonet Jack finds.

"Jack isn't one of these kids that will hang at the mall and go see movies," Sharon says. "That's not his life." Then the video cuts to Jack repeatedly stabbing a cardboard box.

Understanding what the Osbournes say is sometimes difficult due to their British accents and poor sound quality. Subtitles would help, but they're not used.

"The Osbournes" is a novelty show that's amusing on one level, sad on another. There's no doubt this is a family of people who love one another in their own weird manner. But the often crass, profanity-filled way they show that love is uncivilized and not admirable.

Yet by airing on MTV, the Osbournes and their lifestyle automatically inherit the channel's cachet of cool, which makes setting a positive example that much more difficult for non-rock star parents.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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