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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Sherri' on Lifetime

'The View' co-host creates a new forum for her brand with this basic-cable sitcom in which she plays a slightly less successful version of herself. The pilot is less than successful itself.

October 05, 2009|MARY McNAMARA | TELEVISION CRITIC

When, exactly, did Sherri Shepherd become an icon of the multi-platform, multimedia age? And does she get residuals?

A co-host of "The View," the author of a book and now the star of her own Lifetime series, Shepherd has taken her hard-knock past, infidelity-plagued marriage and gift of gab and created a cottage industry of self-revelation.

For years, Shepherd was a professional sitcom guest star, most recently on "30 Rock." Then she became an official lady of "The View," acting as self-appointed surrogate for working mothers, wronged women, born-again Christians and the factually challenged. (See YouTube for her theories about civilization's timeline and the shape of the Earth.)

Certainly no one will accuse Shepherd of being reserved. She recently appeared on "The View" in her bathing suit (to show off the results of a new diet) and a quick Google search reveals her public announcements that she refuses to have breast reduction and has "had more abortions than I would like to count."

Rounding out this perfect storm of Sherri-ness, she now has her own show, called (what else?) "Sherri," which premieres on Lifetime tonight. It will surprise no one to learn that it is based on her very own life .

Well, sort of. She plays a slightly less successful version of herself -- same name, same sitcom roles, but her day job is not "The View" but as a paralegal.

Her husband, however, is still a Big Fat Cheater, and with a white woman at that. A white woman! We may have our first mixed-race president, but Shepherd still cleaves to the troublesome and anachronistic belief that interracial infidelity is two crimes in one.

Delivering a monologue about how nothing bonds women like infidelity (an argument with a rather major flaw built right in, but never mind), she flashes back to a scene in which she is attempting to drain the bank account she shares with her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

When the teller, a black woman, informs her she cannot do this without her husband's signature, Shepherd retorts, "My husband slept with a white woman," and within minutes the funds are liquefied.

But then that's our Sherri, a woman unafraid of expressing her opinion no matter how questionable.

Which doesn't have to be a terrible thing. Most shows starring a stand-up start out with a lot of "and here's what I think about that." While Shepherd's no Jerry Seinfeld or Ellen DeGeneres, she knows how to set up and deliver a line, and the life of a wounded single working mother has enough built-in craziness to keep things moving.

Unfortunately, it looks as though "Sherri" is going to be heavy on the "dating again" theme, which means, among other things, that we'll be hearing a lot more about her weight loss.

Shepherd might want to consider making better use of her supporting cast, which includes Tammy Townsend and Elizabeth Regen as her co-workers Celia and Angie, Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Theo on "The Cosby Show") as ex-husband Kevin and Kali Rocha (so good as the preternaturally perky Sydney on "Grey's Anatomy") as her dippy but still fascist boss, Summer.

If writer David Flebotte ("Desperate Housewives," "Dirt") plans to have Shepherd talking as much as she does in the pilot, he might consider (and I never thought I would say this in my life) using a voice-over. Then at least her co-stars will be spared the tiresome job of sitting 'round the lunch table nodding like a bunch of bobble-heads.

Between Sherri's grouchy father, adorable son and hapless ex, all the stereotypes seem to be running on full steam. It's a less-than-stellar debut, but a body set in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force, and it's hard to imagine the outside force that's going to slow Sherri Shepherd down any time soon.

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mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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'Sherri'

Where: Lifetime

When: 7 tonight

Rating: TV-PG-D (may be unsuitable for young children with an advisory for suggestive dialogue)

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