If you think that ABC's new series How to Get the Guy might be a watered-down network rip-off of HBO's late, lamented Sex and the City, you'd better think again.
The two shows do have one thing in common: Each focuses on a quartet of flighty 30-something females who are on the make in the big city. But while the stylish HBO series, set in New York, was clever, well-written, and quite racy by broadcast network standards, it was definitely a work of fiction.
How to Get the Guy, on the other hand, purports to be the real deal, or as ABC describes it, "a romantic reality series," in which four single women in San Francisco are "ready, willing, and able to do anything and everything they have to in order to find true love."
The show's one-hour premiere episode airs at 10 p.m. Monday.
The four women are Anne, who is shy but funny and has been a bridesmaid seven times; Kris, a "party girl" who can't maintain a serious relationship; Michelle, a no-nonsense lawyer who's looking for perfection in a guy; and Alissa, a "spiritual massage therapist."
Each says she's looking for a guy - not just any guy, mind you, but the guy - but for a variety of reasons, none is having much luck.
Enter the show's "love coaches" - Teresa Strasser, a TV writer and author of a syndicated singles column, and journeyman TV host J.D. Roberto (Shop 'Til You Drop and Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People). Their mission: to help each of the girls hook up with Mr. Right.
Early in the show, Roberto points out helpfully that Frisco's population is around 750,000, and more than half of that number are males.
"Yeah, but how many of them like women?" asks one of the women, only half-joking in reference to the city's large gay population.
Ha-ha, that's a good one, especially since the show's producers are the same guys who created the award-winning TV series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
When they're not scattering clichs like so many rose petals ("To find Price Charming, you have to kiss a lot of frogs"), the coaches share lots of surefire tips that the
women can use to attract unsuspecting guys - things like "make eye contact for four seconds" ("four long, painful seconds," Anne clarifies), "smile," and "get in his personal space."
After a few misfires, the love
coaches decide they need to jump-start the process, so they drag the women off for an afternoon of "rapid dating," an exciting experience whose primary purpose seems to be to make excruciating small talk with more losers, egotists, freaks, S&M fans, and guys who live with their parents than you'd expect to encounter in three lifetimes.
Eventually, the girls land dates, which we're told is a good thing - after all, it says right in the coaches' handbook that you can't have a second date unless there's a first one (Clich No. 179).
But the dates are anything but spontaneous, and they don't look like loads of fun for anybody. In fact, you almost get the feeling that they wouldn't even be taking place if the program's producers weren't picking up the tab.
At the end of one, there's much shuffling at the girl's apartment door, followed by a kiss so awkward that it would embarrass a couple of high school sophomores.
But all is not awkward and strained. In one scene, we do see Michelle strolling down the street with a good-looking guy and having a happy, animated conversation with him. Hey, all right! You go, girl! High fives all around!
No, wait, that's her brother Michael she's walking with. Oops. Never mind.
It's something of a mystery why four attractive women who don't have any obvious manifestations of psychosis need "love coaches" to find a decent guy, but if the men that they encounter in the premiere episode are any indication of San Francisco's gene pool, maybe the women should move to Los Angeles. Or Toledo. Or Fremont.
Of the four, Anne seems to be the most congenial and the one who's taking the whole goofy experience with a sense of fun. She alone is probably reason enough to return for the remaining five episodes of the limited-run series. While explaining the coaches' advice to a friend, Anne neatly sums up the whole show better than any ABC publicist could:
"Men are dense. Fling yourself at them."