Watching "Sisters" is like being trapped inside a nail salon.
Starting a six-episode run at 10 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39, this is the NBC series that has made headlines because of the network's belated vetoing of the premiere's original opening scene, in which several female characters total up their orgasms.
Yes, the shocking "O" word, and spoken by females in a steamy sauna, too. Here's one of the original lines you \o7 won't\f7 hear tonight: "I had five once--New Year's Eve, 1981."
You can just bet the network censored out of cowardice, fearing a backlash from advertisers or media watchdog groups crusading to tailor television to their own puritanical image.
Right move by NBC, wrong motive.
The original opening sequence should have been scratched for creative reasons. It was just as cloying as the rest of this dramatic series about four distinctively different sisters who have little in common beyond their soaring vacuity.
Alex (Swoosie Kurtz) is the pampered, ever-shopping wife of a rich plastic surgeon (David Dukes). Frankie (Julianne Phillips) is the single career woman having an affair with Mitch (Ed Marinaro), a fish merchant and former husband of the most rebellious of the sisters, the down-on-her-luck Teddy (Sela Ward). Georgie (Patricia Kalember) is the gratingly sensible and understanding sister whose jobless husband, John (Garret M. Brown), hangs out at home in a bathrobe and baseball cap, rehearsing to be a lounge singer.
So, in this family, one husband won't dress and, as we discover in a coming episode, another husband cross-dresses.
And you thought prime time excluded gritty reality.
Written by executive producers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman and directed by executive producer Robert Butler, the opening story finds the sisters helping their widowed mother (Elizabeth Hoffman) empty out and sell the family house. Teddy and her teen-age daughter (Heather McAdam) blow into town on a trailer rig. Teddy is furious at Frankie for having an affair with Mitch, and John sings . . . and sings . . . and sings . . . and sings.
Cowen and Lipman have a nice way of mingling the present with the sisters' memories of their childhoods, reminding us that we're all products of our pasts. But like just about everything else in the series, the device is run into the ground.
There's humor here, but most of it is moribund in the three episodes made available for preview. For example, crooning John is excruciating, and making light of a pet rat getting baked alive inside a goose is as repulsive on the screen as in print.
Much of the writing is simply too cute. Marinaro is such a lox as Mitch, there's no comprehending two sisters tugging on him. So when he tells the corporate-minded Frankie, "In bed I'm a blue chip, but with your big-time buddies I'm just a junk bond," you suspect it's a ventriloquist speaking.
Orgasms or no orgasms, "Sisters" simply doesn't work.