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Published: Saturday, 10/1/2005

'Related' is a winner

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Starring in Related are, from left, Lizzy Caplan as Marjee Sorelli, Jennifer Esposito as Ginnie Sorelli, Laura Breckenridge as Rose Sorelli, and Kiele
Sanchez as Ann Sorelli. Starring in Related are, from left, Lizzy Caplan as Marjee Sorelli, Jennifer Esposito as Ginnie Sorelli, Laura Breckenridge as Rose Sorelli, and Kiele Sanchez as Ann Sorelli.
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Against all odds - recasting and reshooting, no review tape sent to critics before press tour (a bad sign), a terrible press conference at press tour- The WB's Related (9 p.m. Wednesday) turns out to be a strong, winning comedy-drama.

Call it Sisters: The Next Generation, but with much better writing thanks to Marta Kauffman, executive producer of Friends, who came aboard after the first busted pilot.

Related revolves around the Sorelli sisters, four young New York women at various life stages. The youngest, Rose (Laura Breckenridge), switched her college major from pre-med to experimental theater without telling her widower father, who's about to get remarried, information Rose hasn't shared with her sisters.

Firstborn Ginnie (Jennifer Esposito) is a lawyer who gets pregnant unexpectedly, shocking her and her husband, Bob (Callum Blue, Dead Like Me).

Therapist Ann (Kiele Sanchez) faces her own crisis when her longtime boyfriend (Dan Futterman, Judging Amy) suggests their relationship is over.

Event coordinator Marjee (Lizzy Caplan), the funniest sister and biggest drama queen, stresses out over her capricious celebrity clients (Jillian Barberie plays herself in the series premiere).

What's most rewarding about Related is that, in the pilot at least, the sisters face relatable trials and tribulations, not the TV-sized problems that plagued the Sisters back in the day. Even better, the actresses interact in a natural way that makes them feel like a real family. And the humor in the script isn't sitcom-schticky, it's more like real life.

Related won't be for everyone, especially viewers lacking estrogen, but it is quality weekly TV.

To prepare for his ABC sitcom debut (8:30 p.m., Oct. 12), it appears that Freddie Prinze, Jr., studied at the Matt LeBlanc School of Acting, given his mumbling performance and nice-guy-cum-Neanderthal portrayal of Freddie Moreno, a Chicago chef who lives with his Puerto Rican grandmother (she only speaks Spanish and has her dialogue subtitled, although, strangely, she seems to understand English), sister, niece and sister-in-law. Predictable I'm-a-guy-whose-space-has-been-invaded-by-women jokes ensue.

The show's one saving grace is Freddie's best friend and slightly more Neanderthal-like neighbor, Chris, played by former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Brian Green. He manages to make Chris, an oblivious player, appealing, particularly in this week's first episode, a much funnier half-hour than the series pilot, which will air at a later date.

Like Related, the pilot for ABC's Hot Properties (9:30 p.m., Oct. 7) was reshot when producers replaced Audra Blaser in a lead role with Christina Moore (Bad Girls Guide), saying they wanted someone older to better complement stars Gail O'Grady and Nicole Sullivan.

Unlike Related, the reshot Hot Properties premiere has not been improved. It is better, but the show remains a disappointingly sex-obsessed sitcom.

O'Grady stars as Ava Summerlin, the confident owner of a Manhattan real estate office. Her employees include insecure Chloe (Sullivan), recently divorced Lola (Sofia Vergara), and client-turned-employee Emerson (Moore).

The talented cast does its best with the show's substandard scripts, but that's not enough to make this a best bet or even, ahem, a hot property.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is the TV editor for the Post-Gazette.



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