A bad imitation of a great classic

Preview: You heard it here first: `Grapevine' characters talk too much about relationships we don't want to know about.

February 28, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Network television has long been shameless in the way it imitated any show that was even a mild success. But now it looks like the networks are down to imitating failure.

Steven Eckholdt starred last year in an ABC sitcom about four young adult friends in Los Angeles, "It's Like, You Know," which was mercifully canceled. Starting tonight, viewers can see Eckholdt in a CBS sitcom about four young adult friends in Miami, "Grapevine," which can't be canceled soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, they and a million other unimaginative sitcoms are imitating the great success NBC once enjoyed with four young adult friends in New York named Jerry, George, Cosmo and Elaine.

In "Grapevine," Eckholdt plays David, a restaurant owner in South Beach who is in love with Susan (Kristy Swanson), a marketing executive for a cruise line.

David is also the brother of Thumper (George Eads), a TV sportscaster in Miami. Rounding out the quartet is David's friend, Matt (David Sutcliffe), owner of a South Beach hotel. Matt's marriage is conveniently breaking up, which puts him back in the singles scene.

Do I have to tell you they are all good looking, have no money problems, hardly ever do anything that could be remotely called work and behave like clueless teen-agers when it comes to relationships?

Do I also have to tell you I couldn't care less about their relationships?

Maybe I would if they didn't talk so much about them. The CBS material says the great thing about "Grapevine" is that "by breaking the fourth wall, it turns viewers into confidants, allowing them to listen in on discussions of the most honest feelings about relationships."

First, having characters talk directly to the camera -- breaking the fourth wall -- is not a new technique. Second, what happens if you take the viewer inside a character's head, and the viewer quickly discovers there's nothing there?

This quartet makes Drew Carey seem deep.

I'd like to think we were done with the three-guys-and-a-gal sitcom formula, but there are still lots of cities out there that haven't been tried. And network programmers don't appear to be getting any smarter.

`Grapevine'

When: 9: 30-10 tonight

Where: WJZ (Channel 13)

In brief: Hateful characters who talk too much

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