Why just adorable? Why not original?

Preview: NBC's `Leap of Faith' tries too hard to imitate HBO hit.

February 27, 2002|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Isn't she adorable?

That's how we're supposed to feel by the end of the pilot for Leap of Faith, NBC's latest attempt at finding a post-Friends, Thursday night sitcom that people will stay tuned to out of something other than inertia.

Just in case you hadn't thought of it, one character makes that observation for us near the end of tomorrow's pilot after the leading character, 32-year-old Faith Wardell (Sarah Paulson), explains how she Crazy Glued her finger to her forehead.

Personally, I don't find Faith adorable. By the time someone hits 32, she ought to be trying for something a little more complicated than adorable.

I have to admit that Leap of Faith is one of the more promising candidates to actually earn its own Thursday night slot since Will & Grace - but that's not saying much.

I hate how hard the new show tries to be Sex and the City. Of course, Faith's creator is Jenny Bicks, a writer-producer of the award-winning HBO comedy series, so what did I expect?

How about a little originality?

Leap of Faith is part of a larger problem at NBC that began last year, when Bob Wright, the network chairman, put out a memo suggesting NBC should be more like HBO. Someone should have told the boss that premium cable and network television are practically two different media. NBC can't be HBO.

And now we're seeing nothing but imitations of HBO hits. On Tuesday, it was Watching Ellie wanting to be like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Tomorrow, it's Leap of Faith desperately mimicking Sex and the City.

So, Faith spends a lot of time sitting around with three friends talking about sex. The only innovation: A man is included in the group, Andy (Ken Marino), a college friend of Faith's now working as a reporter for Rolling Stone.

In the pilot, they mainly talk about Faith's upcoming marriage to the attentive but boring David (Bradley White), and the hunky guy (Brad Rowe) with whom she has sex one afternoon a few days before her wedding.

Unlike HBO, NBC can't show its audience what happened in bed. They only can show the hunk helping Faith button her blouse, and then the endless discussions between Faith and her friends.

We're supposed to take her word for how life-altering the experience was. But that's a leap of faith I'm just not ready to make.

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