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TV Review

'Simple Life' Just Another Martha Stewart Clone

June 03, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

These are the summer doldrums when networks begin burning off series that didn't make the cut. So CBS tonight introduces "The Simple Life," a noisy, cheap joke-spewing sitcom starring Judith Light as "America's foremost authority on country living." It had been envisioned as a midseason entry, until better judgment prevailed.

Sara Campbell (Light) is meant to be a Martha Stewart clone, a baking-and-flower-arranging perfectionist who creates havoc among her New York City family and colleagues by moving her hugely profitable empire and TV show to a farm upstate.

Prime-time comedies have been transplanting urbanites to farms for years. Like bread minus yeast, though, this one never rises to the occasion, falling short even of "Style & Substance," this year's earlier short-lived Martha Stewart knockoff--also on CBS--in which Jean Smart played "America's foremost authority on style and gracious living."

So much for originality.

Although Sara is hardly roughing it in her fastidiously swank rural digs, the move unnerves her effete British producer (James Patrick Stuart), and the new surroundings are just as alien to her acerbic mother (Florence Stanley). Also dropping in are Sara's college dropout daughter (Ashlee Levitch) and her TV crew, whose disruption of farm routine is mighty upsetting to her hunk of a foreman (Brett Cullen).

Compounding this idiocy are whiny cameos by Fran Drescher and Rachel Chagall of "The Nanny," who here rank on the food chain several notches below the farm animals. Simple is exactly what this series is.

* "The Simple Life" premieres at 8:30 tonight on CBS (Channel 2). The network has rated it TV-PG-D (may be unsuitable for young children, with an advisory for suggestive dialogue).

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