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TELEVISION REVIEW

When cuteness gets forced upon us

The Sorelli sisters speak in zeitgeist-sounding dialect on the WB's 'Related.' All the show needs now are some zeitgeist moments.

October 05, 2005|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

Everything happens cute on the WB's "Related," which premieres tonight and is about the Sorelli sisters of Manhattan -- Ginnie, Ann, Marjee and Rose. They're plucky and eccentric siblings who fight cute, reconcile cute, get pregnant cute, change their major cute, move back home cute, get dumped cute, play cards cute.

They're gorgeous and resilient, fragile and kooky -- sisters not so much by blood as by a rigorous casting process, offers going out to 18- to 34-year-old Meg Ryan types and Sarah Jessica Parker types and Jennifer Aniston types and Natalie Portman types.

There's also the sister nobody wants to talk about, the Laura San Giacomo type, excommunicated from the original pilot for being too much like Laura San Giacomo.

Ginnie (Jennifer Esposito, who appears to have taken her "concerned oldest sister" stage direction a bit too literally, marching around with a grating combination of stiffness and histrionics) is a lawyer, Ann (Kiele Sanchez) is a therapist who specializes in counseling transvestites (because that sounds funny), kooky Marjee (Lizzy Caplan) is a party planner, and put-upon kid sister Rose (Laura Breckenridge) is a freshman at NYU or Columbia, I can't remember which; anyway, from Hollywood you take Cahuenga to Barham, go right until it turns into Olive. The university will be on your right.

"Related" tilts at being about the penetrate-at-your-own-risk bubble of the sibling clique, about the love-hate, mean-nice banter among four sisters who lost their mother years ago and who are even closer for that. But really it's about TV, about networks trying like heck to fabricate the successes of recent years, the fabricators plucked from the successes themselves.

So "Related," the WB proclaims, is from "the creative forces behind 'Friends' and 'Sex and the City.' " It sounds almost biblical, until you remember that "Friends" and "Sex and the City" weren't on back then. The forces would be Marta Kauffman, co-creator of "Friends," and Liz Tuccillo, who wrote on "Sex and the City" and co-wrote the relationship laugher "He's Just Not That Into You."

Say this, their show is creatively forced, the sisters speaking in a zeitgeist-sounding dialect over "Sex and the City's" ambient xylophone, without ever landing in the kind of zeitgeist-capturing moment that made that show a hit. "Related," in fact, is practically a musical. "No, this wasn't the emotionally unavailable guy from the bar, this was the co-dependent, wrong number guy," piano, piano, piano.

In the pilot, news arrives that the Sorelli father is about to marry his "pathologically chipper" girlfriend, which sets the Sorelli girls into cute-hectic mode.

Meanwhile, Ginnie's trying to hide that she's pregnant, Rose that she's changed her major from pre-med to experimental theater. Marjee's been evicted from her apartment, and Ann is about to be dumped by her boyfriend, Danny, who's opening a new restaurant. That character is a "He's Just Not That Into You" guy, played by a Dan Futterman type (Dan Futterman); he low-talks his lines, as if he's decided that if you don't speak at a truly audible level it doesn't actually count as being in a show like this.

*

'Related'

Where: WB

When: 8 to 9 tonight

Ratings: TV-PG/L, may be unsuitable for young children, with advisory for language.

Jennifer Esposito...Ginnie

Kiele Sanchez...Ann

Lizzy Caplan...Marjee

Laura Breckenridge...Rose

Executive producers Marta Kauffman, Steve Pearlman, Andrew Plotkin.

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