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UPN Debuts 'As If,' 'Random Years'

March 05, 2002|SCOTT SANDELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"As If" and "The Random Years" premiere back to back starting at 9 tonight on UPN. Each half-hour series might more appropriately use the other's title, for the first show is dismayingly random and the second pretends as if it were "Seinfeld."

"As If" follows six young adults as they make their way through a world of manipulation, bonding and really large muffins, which appear in close-up several times as a leitmotif tonight.

Though it would seem these folks are college students, studying is the last thing on their minds. Most of the premiere takes place in a bar and disco, with various flashbacks and time warps that come across as more of a distracting jumble than an innovative approach.

The show has a great techno/house music soundtrack but lacks characters that are easy to care about. The alternatively named, coiffed and pierced Sooz (Emily Corrie), a transfer from the British series on which "As If" is based, comes closest.

UPN calls this show a "dramedy," a mixture of drama and comedy. Maybe that makes sense, because I didn't know whether to cry or laugh.

By contrast, "The Random Years" is more firmly rooted in tradition: the sitcom format. It centers on three guys and a girl, in a New York City apartment building, trying just to get through life or at least some really bad dates.

As if this setup weren't familiar enough, one of the guys is Wiseman (Joshua Ackerman), a wild-haired dental technician who appears to be possessed by the spirit of Kramer.

As sitcoms go, "The Random Years" is, by itself, fairly enjoyable. Its characters, all in their early 20s, are sympathetic enough. The story is funny, if somewhat predictable. But its "Seinfeld"-ian elements invite comparison with the original. And by that measure, it is lacking a great deal of something to match a show about "nothing."

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