Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TV: The Class

Dude whose name I can't be bothered to learn: "He used to play for the Eagles."
Second dude whose etc.: "I never followed music."

That was the one bit that made me laugh in the entire premiere episode of The Class. (Hint to certain readers: the first character is referring to an American football team based out of Philadelphia, the second to a musical group comprised of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, and others.) Beyond that, watching this show was an almost unremittingly unpleasant experience, one which I will not repeat.

The flimsy premise of this show, aside from being a 30-minute infomercial for Classmates.com, is that one alumnus of a third grade class reunites several other members of that class at a party celebrating the 20th anniversary of his meeting his fiancee. His fiancee dumps him in the middle of the party, and hilarity so entirely fails to ensue that it causes physical pain.

One huge problem -- aside from the total idiocy of the premise -- is the ginormous cast the show attempts to introduce in this pilot episode. There are a full eight integral members of the third grade class we're expected to assimilate in 22 short minutes (subtracting commercials), as well as assorted mates and relatives. That's a formidable task, and one at which you will perhaps not be surprised to learn The Class completely fails.

The central character seems to be Jason Ritter (whose last name isn't doing his unfunny, untalented carcass any favors). He's the catalyst for this class reunion, but he's so utterly bland here, as he was in Joan of Arcadia and every other thing he's ever been in or ever will be in, that, with the show depending on him as the tentpole, it collapses before it even gets started. Other "standouts" among the cast: Andrea Anders, the love interest from Joey, who here gets saddled with a love interest even dopier and less magnetic than Matt LeBlanc; Lizzy Caplan, who frankly deserves much better; some dude who's about to commit suicide before he gets invited to the party (hilarious!!) and the girl who falls for him and whom he subsequently backs over with his car (hysterical!!!); and Sean Maguire, formerly the British guy from Off Centre, now playing American fairly convincingly, as the gay representative of the class and seemingly the only classmate who's happy (rest assured, those looking for stereotypes: another classmate is oblivious to the fact that her husband is a screaming queen! Hilarity still fails to ensue!).

This debut episode spends most of its time trying to introduce all these various characters (unsuccessfully), and sacrifices to this effort whatever comedy or character development possibly might have occurred otherwise. There's the emo dude, the snarky punk girl, the brittle rich bitch (aka the Molly Ringwald), the geeky loser (Anthony Michael Hall), the jock (Emilio Estevez), the bizarre girl (Ally Sheedy), and so on. They all come across as obnoxious or repellent to varying degrees; even Lizzy Caplan, to whom I am inclined to cut the most slack, hammers one mercilessly repetitive note.

This is an awful, awful show. How it occupies the higher profile 8PM spot, while the tremendously funny How I Met Your Mother is relegated to 8:30, is inconceivable to me. I expect their spots on the schedule to be switched within five weeks; I expect The Class to be cancelled within ten weeks. Bets?

2 out of 10

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