"It's like, you know " is, like, interesting in terms of sitcom technique, prime-time postmodernism and its answer to the question, "Is there life after `Seinfeld'?"
But the new ABC sitcom about five friends in L.A., who are mainly into material goods and self-obsession, has, like, a hole where its soul is supposed to be. And, in the end, it's, like, not even very entertaining. Although, I'll admit, the call on entertainment value is, like, a highly subjective one.
First of all, "It's like, you know " gets the award as the most grammatically annoying title since "thirtysomething." The title is not accidental.
Ted Harbert, the former head of programming at ABC when it had "thirtysomething" on its schedule, is one of the executive producers here. Harbert knows that a grammatically annoying title is one way to cut through the sitcom clutter and get attention for a new series -- at least from critics and editors who have to stop and figure the grammar out. A small point, perhaps, but that's how carefully constructed this sitcom is.
Care also clearly went into the music, which is composed by Snuffy Walden, who created the sound for "thirtysomething" and "My So-Called Life" among other quality series at ABC during Harbert's reign. Yes, attention has been paid to the details in "It's like, you know " -- but I do not find God there.
My problem is mostly with two of the leading characters, Robbie (Steven Eckholdt) and Shrug (Evan Handler). The latter is a rich neurotic living off his trust fund -- a "trustafarian," as another character says in one of the pilot's more clever moments.
Robbie, who lives in Shrug's guest house, is also rich. But he got his money the old-fashioned way in Los Angeles -- he created a cable TV show that filled a niche. It's a pay-per-view show called "Pay-Per-Jew" for Jewish viewers who want to celebrate the High Holidays in front of their TV sets rather than going to temple.
The Robbie and Shrug act of intense conversations about seemingly meaningless stuff gets old fast. Tonight it's about placement of the letter "Q" in the alphabet.
"Don't you think the letter `Q' should come a lot farther down in the alphabet?" Robbie asks while they're sitting at a stoplight.
"Yes, yes, I do," Shrug says, sounding like the heavens just opened.
I'm sorry, but it's not Jerry and George, despite the series being created by Peter Mehlman, who also produced "Seinfeld."
The other leading characters are Arthur (Chris Eigeman), Lauren (A.J. Langer) and Jennifer (Jennifer Grey). Arthur, once Robbie's college roommate, has come west to write a book attacking L.A., which should make him the one character outside the loopiness of La-La Land. As such, he should be the point of entry for most of us in the audience.
But Harbert and Mehlman did not take such great care in casting: It took me two replays of the pilot and second episode of the series before I could tell Arthur and Robbie apart, the actors are so similar in look and style.
The most interesting character is Jennifer Grey playing a character named Jennifer Grey, though Grey insists it's not really her.
"It's not really myself. It's kind of an amalgam and the character of the wacky neighbor, the actress next door, you know?" she said in an interview.
There are lots of jokes about her nose job and sleeping around in the first two episodes -- so maybe she's got to say it's not really her despite the character's name.
Whatever the case, it's very, very postmodern, this deconstruction of identities, and I like it. I like Grey, too, though, I liked her a lot better with her real nose.
Do I like her and the fluid sense of her character's identity as much as I hate Robbie and Shrug? No. But, it's, like, you know, close enough that I think I'll, like, hang with the series for a while.
What: "It's like, you know "
When: 8: 30 to 9 tonight
Where: ABC (WMAR, Channel 2)
Pub Date: 3/24/99