A dull whine, in three-part harmony Preview: Fox's new sitcom, 'Significant Others,' poorly carries out a bad premise.

March 11, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

When Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman created Fox's "Party of Five," they started with a great premise: five kids, struggling to stay together as a family following the deaths of their parents. Viewers had a rooting interest from the start.

When Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman created Fox's new dramatic series, "Significant Others" (premiering at 9 tonight on WBFF, Channel 45), they started with a lousy premise: three characters -- two guys, one gal -- sticking together because they may be the only three people in the world who could put up with one another.

Guess which is the better show? Hint: It ain't the one that raises "Three's Company," that '70s laugh fest about two gals and a guy living together, to the level of cultural touchstone.

We're introduced to prime time's three newest irritants in a darkened room. Nell (Jennifer Garner) and Henry (Scott Bairstow) are busy making love when the light pops on and who should appear but mutual best friend Campbell (Eion Bailey). Now you and me, we might find such an incident amusing, certainly embarrassing. But it bums poor Cam out totally, and we're treated to the first in an endless series of angst-ridden harangues about how life is so darn tough, and how dare you two make it even tougher?

And that's only the beginning. There's still time for Cam to dump on his dad (who makes bras for a living) and make a pass at his brother's fiancee.

Why? Because Cam is so confused about everything, and life is no longer the game of H-O-R-S-E he used to play as a youngster, when a bad shot could be redeemed simply by calling for a take-back.

"When did stuff start to count?" he moans at one point, and our hearts bleed for him.

But in case you're worrying that Cam will hog the spotlight, don't; both Nell and Henry get to do their share of whining before tonight's hour is up.

Poor Nell's got it tough, see, because life keeps asking her questions, and the only answer she knows is "no." So, before the night is up, she's ended a relationship, quit her job (because her boss wants to promote her) and told off Cam (well, at least she's got one redeeming quality).

As for Henry, he's the misunderstood artist forced to prostitute himself to earn a living: He's a writer (you can tell because he sports a goatee and lets his shirttails hang out) who ekes out a living penning smut. But his main problem is an inability to see what an unrepentant whiner Nell is.

Bailey, Bairstow and Garner, appealing actors all, give it their best shot, and with better material, that might have been enough. But not even the trio of Olivier, Tracy and Hepburn could raise this show above the level of the banal.

'Significant Others'

Where: Fox (WBFF, Channel 45)

When: 9-10 tonight

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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