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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three 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 or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 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 entry:
HAPPY HOUR (FOX)
(Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c this fall)
The network's description: "Straight arrow HENRY BECKMAN (John Sloan, "The OH in Ohio") had it all: a great job, a perfect girlfriend and a sweet apartment. He was a big fish in the small pond of Amsterdam, Missouri. And then he let HEATHER (Brooke D'Orsay, "King's Ransom") talk him into moving to Chicago to work in her family business, where it all went wrong. In the space of one morning, Henry gets dumped by Heather, learns he can no longer work for Heather's uncle, and gets kicked out of their apartment. It's in this vulnerable state that he meets his new roommate, a vain, flashy, loveable rogue named LARRY CONE (Lex Medlin, "Still Standing"). Larry is a modern-day Dean Martin who is looking for a new protege to teach the wisdom of staying single and enjoying the good life. Larry's last roommate and best friend, BRAD (Nat Faxon, "Joey"), has gotten engaged to the shrew TINA (Jamie Denbo, "Must Love Dogs"), a cold and controlling fiance who's immune to Larry's considerable charm. Under Larry's tutelage, Henry begins to rebuild his life and goes to work for Larry's childhood friend AMANDA (Beth Lacke, "The Rest of Your Life"), a beautiful mess who's unsuccessfully trying to emulate her perfect ideal of womanhood, Kelly Ripa. Will Henry manage to hold onto his traditional values and remain a hopeless romantic? Or will Larry indeed "build a better Brad"?"
What did they leave out: Ladies and gentlemen, we have what will probably be the first show canceled this season.
The plot in a nutshell: Henry Beckman (John Sloan) has moved to Chicago to be with girlfriend Heather (Brooke D'Orsay), a decision he promptly regrets as she dumps him as soon as he arrives. Now homeless and jobless - he was set to work at her father's company - his fortunes turn for the better after he meets Larry Cone (Lex Medlin), Heather's neighbor. Larry it seems is still smarting after losing his roommate/best friend Brad Cooper (Nat Faxon) to the man-eating Tina Difabio (Jamie Denbo) and wants to take Henry under his wing to replace him. You see, Larry's a guy who likes a strong martini at 4 p.m. and lives by the man's man rules of old. Left with no choice, Henry moves in and begins to hear Larry's life lessons. Chief among them: find a new girl to make Heather jealous and regret her decision to dump him. Lending an assist is Larry's chronically single childhood friend Amanda (Beth Lacke), who lands Henry a job, as well as gives Heather a reason to be jealous.
What works: If a character lip synching to Dean Martin's "Ain't That A Kick In The Head?" - not once, but twice - strikes you as side-splittingly hilarious, this is the show for you.
What doesn't: If not, you'll probably find "Happy Hour" as eye-gougingly bad as I do. It's just a plain old mess - a fact that stands out even more so this season considering the overall high quality of this fall's new crop of shows. "Happy Hour" feels like a forgotten sitcom from the 1990s - I mean the "Swingers" craze died out five years ago, didn't it? - transported to our present day in the hopes of reminding us that yes, sitcoms can still be not just bad, but FOX "canceled in four episodes" a la 1998's "Costello" bad. From an extended joke about seeing Henry's balls - saying balls on TV is hilarious right? - to Larry's only on TV job of selling custom T-shirts over the internet - cause he's "hip" kids! - every detail reeks of the type of sitcoms one thought weren't made anymore.
The challenges ahead: Place your bets, will "Happy Hour" be around after baseball?