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A beach awash in soapsuds

How J.Lo can you go? That would be the sexy but empty-headed new 'South Beach,' the singer's project on UPN.

January 11, 2006|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

UPN's "South Beach," executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, ranks right down there with UPN's "Sex, Love & Secrets," both prime-time soaps the network has put forth this season in the vague hope of catching a vibe a la "The O.C." or "Dawson's Creek" or, for you history buffs, "Melrose Place."

"Sex, Love & Secrets," since canceled, was about pretty young hipsters angst-ing hard in Silver Lake; "South Beach," debuting tonight in back-to-back episodes, has a slightly different flavor, the milieu of the show redolent with babes by the pool, the atmosphere reeking of sunblock and hair products.

The story here (you have my permission to stop reading now) involves Matt (Marcus Coloma), a kid from Brooklyn working construction whose father gambles away his college fund; he decides to join his pal-from-the-hood Vincent (Chris Johnson) and head off for Miami, where Matt's true love ex-girlfriend, Arielle (Odette Yustman), is in mid-bloom as a supermodel.

Are we watching some J.Lo roman a clef? Yustman has her look and a Jenny-from-the-block innocence. UPN has slotted the show for Wednesday nights at 8, not coincidentally the time period for its popular "America's Next Top Model."

The warmed-over hip-hop saga has Arielle involved with nightclub manager Alex (Lee Thompson Young), whose mother, Elizabeth (Vanessa Williams), owns the swanky Hotel Soleil, in which Miami mobster Robert Fuentes (Giancarlo Esposito) is an investor.

Soon Matt and Vincent have been hired at the hotel, Arielle's mooning for Matt and vice versa, Vincent has infiltrated the Fuentes crew, and Williams' Elizabeth is saying lines like: "South Beach is like Madonna -- always changing," or "You can't let the pastel surfaces and sunlight fool you. South Beach will eat you alive."

Those lines are precious, but not my favorite from the pilot. That would be when Arielle is protesting that she's no longer in love with Matt, to which her supermodel friend quips: "Go so 'I'm so over him' someplace else."

At least the cast of "South Beach" is nicely colorblind for one of these sudsy offerings. The rest is pretty beige.

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