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Fox's 'Titus' Seeking Some Stability

March 06, 2002|MARK SACHS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was two years ago this month that comedian Christopher Titus became the lemons-to-lemonade poster boy, parlaying his tumultuous upbringing in a dysfunctional household into a Fox sitcom that plays the same dark themes of his life for laughs.

As "Titus" began trying to find its audience, however, the audience started having problems finding "Titus."

Fox shifted the show from one day to another, and just when it seemed to be settling in, the network began tinkering with its time slot. Sometimes the show would be preempted altogether as the network auditioned other series in its place.

Fox executives have assured the star that the juggling is all part of a master plan to nurture the offbeat series, and tonight at 9:30, viewers can see how the project is coming along.

In an uneven episode titled "The Session," Titus (Chris Titus) and the show's main players (Cynthia Watros as girlfriend Erin; Stacy Keach as his alcoholic father, Ken; Zack Ward as his brother, Dave; David Shatraw as friend Tommy; and Rachel Roth as niece Amy) gather for a group-counseling powwow that's part of Erin's grad school program.

Early on, the episode feels like an underwritten comedy sketch that's being played a bit too broadly. But it picks up some steam when the session begins unraveling and the participants storm out one by one, only to realize that they can watch those remaining in the room through a one-way mirror.

The show rolls out its familiar tricks of childhood flashbacks and Titus' black-and-white confessionals into the camera to keep things moving. But if "Titus" wants Fox to halt its own habit of keeping things moving, namely the show's day and time slots, it will focus on stronger writing and not the gimmicks.

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