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TV REVIEW

'House Rules' Gets Off to a Shaky Start

March 09, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

What is the big deal about NBC's departing "Seinfeld" being a show about nothing? Most sitcoms are about nothing--the difference being that "Seinfeld," with genius at the levers, has translated trivia and vacuity into original characters and some of the biggest laughs in the history of television.

Whereas now comes NBC's "House Rules," whose premiere tonight expands the concept of nothingness into an epic, panoramic void without the redeeming benefit of humor. Although next week's Episode 2 offers somewhat better news, how are viewers to know which "House Rules" rules the roost?

At the center of this utterly derivative half-hour are three blissfully platonic pals, a miz and two moronic males--stop me if you've heard this before--sharing a house in Denver. A crisis arises when Casey Farrell (Maria Pitillo), who is a deputy district attorney, contemplates moving to Paris with her idiot boyfriend, forcing her slobbery close buddies, the unemployed Thomas Riley III (Bradley White) and William McCusky (David Newsom), who is somehow an emergency room doctor, to reluctantly seek a new housemate.

Does Casey end up leaving these bozos? Duh!

Scheduled for next week is a funnier episode that calls into question the manliness of William and Thomas when Casey begins dating a macho, gun-happy he-man of a cop. Tonight, though, "House Rules" fires only blanks.

* "House Rules" premieres at 8:30 tonight on NBC (Channel 4). The network has rated it TV-PG (may not be suitable for younger children).

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