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UPN's "Love" unlucky in tough time slot

(Posted September 22, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

Having to go up against the second half of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "The Apprentice" on Thursday nights at 9:30 means the death knell already could be sounding for "Love, Inc.," a new UPN sitcom about lonely people and the unlucky-at-love matchmakers who profit from them.

The good news is that when you're UPN, the expectations are decidedly diminished. If just the friends and relatives of the cast and crew tune in -- and even a few of them are Nielsen households -- we could be looking at a survivor. Yet while this show isn't terrible, demonstrating spirit and energy if not belly laughs, it will need to get funnier very quickly or risk dying a quick, inglorious death.

This sitcom already had to dump and reshoot one pilot when original star Shannen Doherty was deemed unlikable in a starring role. Test audiences were said to have rejected her. And so after "Love" was picked up in the spring, Busy Philipps ("Freaks and Geeks") was cast to replace her in the role of Denise Johnson, whose own love life is a major struggle. She works for Clea (Holly Robinson Peete), the founder of the Love, Inc., dating service who only recently (like in the pilot) found her marriage crumbled. They also have a tart-tongued Argentinean receptionist, Viviana (Ion Overman), who needs to find Mr. Right so she can score a green card.

Where "Love" proves to be engaging is in its grasp of the absurd as it relates to the whole dating service dynamic. The firm featured here pushes the concept of the "wingman" and "wingwoman" who go into the field with their clients to help them forge love connections. Philipps as well as supporting players Reagan Gomez-Preston and Vince Vieluf all play these wing nuts, as it were, with the perky, edgy Denise being the company's top wing.

In the opener, penned by co-executive producer Andrew Secunda, Denise is asked to fix up a former flame who seeks a new mate. She loses her composure in all of the predictable ways, which is funny for about 45 seconds before hitting the wall. That might actually be an accurate assessment of the entire show, which subs cute where clever would have better served it. In truth, it's not nearly as effortlessly savvy as was NBC's "Miss Match" two years back that had the added advantage of Alicia Silverstone in the lead. And if memory serves, that one didn't do too well, either.

The irony for "Love" is that it's exec produced by former NBC Entertainment chief Warren Littlefield, a prime architect of that network's Must See TV juggernaut on Thursday nights. Now here he is forced to endure its decidedly weakened -- though still sufficiently potent -- wrath. Between "Apprentice" and "CSI," this is a competitive nightmare. Love is a battlefield, baby.


Denise: Busy Philipps

Barry: Vince Vieluf

Francine: Reagan Gomez-Preston

Viviana: Ion Overman

Clea: Holly Robinson Peete.

Executive producers: Adam Chase, Warren Littlefield, Mark Burg, Oren Koules; Co-executive producers: Andrew Secunda, Maggie Bandur; Supervising producer: Robert Peacock; Consulting producer: Michael Curtis; Producer: Mark H. Ovitz; Director: Rob Schiller; Teleplay: Andrew Secunda; Director of photography: Mikal Neiers; Production designer: John Shaffner; Costume designer: Jyl Moder; Editor: Robert Bramwell; Music: Kurt Farquhar; Sound mixers: Tom Huth, John Bickelhaupt; Casting: Susan Vash.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Source: Yahoo! News

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