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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
SEX, LIES AND SECRETS (UPN)
(Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)
The network's description: "SEX, LIES & SECRETS (Tuesday, 9:00-10:00 PM), set in the small, hip neighborhood of Silver Lake, on the outskirts of Hollywood, is a fresh, edgy new drama that explores the intimate and often complex relationships of a tight-knit group of friends finding out who they are and what they want in life. These twenty-somethings have become a family sharing everything, but as in any family, the need to protect each other can often compel these friends to keep secrets that sometimes do more harm than good. The new drama stars Denise Richards ("Scary Movie 3") as Jolene, Eric Balfour ("Six Feet Under") as Charlie, Lauren German ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") as Rose, Omar Miller ("Shall We Dance") as Coop, Tamara Taylor ("Diary of a Mad Black Woman") as Nina, and James Stevenson ("Hope and Faith") as Hank. SEX, LIES & SECRETS is produced by Axelrod/Edwards Company in association with Paramount Network Television. Jonathan Axelrod, Kelly Edwards and Daniel Cerone ("Clubhouse") are executive producers. Michael Gans & Richard Register ("Celebrity Deathmatch") are co-executive producers and writers."
What did they leave out: The show is framed by "National Geographic"-esque footage and a Discovery Channel-style narrarator with the idea being it's a study of human behavior, more specifically (you guessed it) why we lie and keep secrets. With that in mind the show's original title ("Wildlife") seems more applicable. It should also be noted Denise Richards (despite being listed first in the description) only plays a small role in the show and doesn't even appear until well past the half-hour mark.
The plot in a nutshell: Basically there's a group of friends who have (sometimes dark) secrets and must lie to keep them. There's entertainment reporter Rose (Lauren German), who just received the ashes of her shady ex-boyfriend (and the troubles that result from his death); her current nice-guy boyfriend Hank (James Stevenson), who's mulling giving up his rocker life to settle down with Rose; his bandmate Coop (Omar Miller), who is keeping his current flame a secret; their womanizing friend Charlie (Eric Balfour); and Nina (Tamara Taylor) a bookworm looking to break out of her shell. Over the course of the pilot, each one learns another member's secret and must decide whether to keep it to themselves.
What works: Only when Denise Richards appears as the resident "bitch" (another ex-girlfriend of Rose's dead ex-boyfriend) does the series show any signs of life. The problem: the life is that of a campy show that's begging to come out.
What doesn't: Oh where to start. What probably makes the show so painful is how such campy material can be played so straight. The "secrets" each character has are so screechingly bad they make "Melrose Place" look like "I, Claudius" by comparison. Charlie hooks up with a hot girl who happens to have a boyfriend she's trying to keep it from: gee, I wonder who this boyfriend could turn out to be? It all leads up to a laugh-inducing ending that is so predictable they don't even need to pan up to show who the mysterious new figure that enters the group's life is.
The challenges ahead: God help us, imagine if "Veronica Mars" was canceled and this was its replacement? (Insert full body shudder here.)