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TELEVISION & RADIO | THE FALL TV SEASON

Never a quiet moment in 'Hope & Faith's' household

September 26, 2003|James Endrst | Special to The Times

As long as there is network television, there will be shows like ABC's "Hope & Faith."

No matter what we do to try to stop them.

Like bugs capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust, those shrill, laugh-track-laden, prime-time comedies best classified as "sitcoms in extremis" just keep coming back.

"Hope & Faith," which makes its debut at 9 tonight, is one of the worst in years.

Faith Ford ("Murphy Brown") and Kelly Ripa ("Live! With Regis and Kelly") star as two very different sisters forced by circumstances to live under the same roof -- along with Hope's husband and three kids.

The sisters are at the center of it all and Ripa, who plays Faith, a daytime soap star who's been knocked off after a decade-long run as Ashley Storm on "The Sacred and the Sinful," is the real star here. Not that it's anything to be proud of.

Ford, who surprisingly wasn't cast as Faith, plays Hope, a stay-at-home mom who's been sheltered happily in the suburban Midwest, cooking, cleaning and living life like it's the '50s, while her three kids and her husband, Charley (Ted McGinley), pursue actual lives.

Unfortunately for Hope and the family, Faith blew every dollar of her big Hollywood salary on implants, dye jobs, flashy flights of fashion and long-forgotten financial indiscretions befitting a daytime diva. So she's crashing at her sister's place until further notice. Ripa, of course, knows the territory well, having spent 12 years on ABC's "All My Children."

But you'd have to assume the worst to think that Ripa, or anyone else for that matter, could be as densely self-centered or clueless as Faith.

It's just one big poufy pity party with Faith, who watches herself with the greatest of admiration, mourning the passing of her character and her career and whining that the producers "didn't even have the decency to give me brain cancer."

Hope, who had some sense of control before Faith's arrival, now finds herself at a loss and making foolish suggestions to try to restore some sense of normalcy.

With the star trip over, she tells Faith, "Why don't you be yourself?"

"What do you mean?" Faith asks in all sincerity.

And that's the way it goes. It's like vaudeville never died. It just went electric.

"Hope & Faith" is the kind of show where there's never a quiet moment, where the laugh track is always ready and willing, where every kiss is greeted by a "whoo HOO!" and the spoken word is never spoken because everyone must shout to be heard.

Which brings us to the rest of the family.

While father Charley, true to this idiotic format, is of little consequence as a character or as the so-called man of the house, the children are just begging for tough love.

When teenager Sydney (Nicole Paggi) announces at breakfast, for example, that she is not going to school because she has nothing to wear, pre-teen Hayley (Macey Cruthird) clarifies for anyone who might be confused that by nothing, her sister means: "Nothing a boy hasn't felt you up in."

Score another one for the laugh track.

It's hard to imagine a show with less to offer or harder to take than this one. Except for one that starred Kathie Lee.

*

'Hope & Faith'

Where: ABC

When: 9-9:30 p.m. Fridays; premieres tonight.

Rating: The network has rated the show TV-PGDV (may be unsuitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and violence).

Kelly Ripa...Faith

Faith Ford...Hope

Ted McGinley...Charley

Nicole Paggi...Sydney

Macey Cruthird...Hayley

Jansen Panettiere...Justin (tonight's episode only)

Paulie Litt...Justin (subsequent episodes)

Creator, writer Joanna Johnson. Executive producers Emile Levisetti, Rob Hanning and Guymon Casady.

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