TV Reviews: Lifetime turns to comedy

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'Footballers Wives'
When: 10 tonight, BBC America.
Starring: Zoe Lucker.
'Lovespring International'
When: 11 p.m. tomorrow, Lifetime.
Starring: Jane Lynch.    

After years of drama, melodrama and TV movies about women in danger, fighting addiction and saving children, Lifetime has decided that women also have -- hold onto your hats! -- a sense of humor.

How else to explain the network's first foray into comedy since "Oh Baby!" and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" in the 1990s? Well, there's also this: Susanne Daniels, formerly of The WB, has taken over as Entertainment president at Lifetime. Daniels championed the likes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Felicity" while at The WB, so she knows that humor and drama can mix with ease.

"Lovespring International" (11 p.m. Monday), Lifetime's first comedy effort under the Daniels regime, offers hit or miss humor as most improvisational comedies do. The presence of "Reno 911!" star Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jane Lynch (of the Christopher Guest mock- umentaries "A Mighty Wind" and "Best in Show") will likely raise expectations, but fans are advised to tamp those down a bit.

Lynch stars as Victoria Ratchford, founder of the Lovespring International dating service. Her staff includes relationship consultants Burke Kristoffer (Sam Pancake), a more insecure and less funny rendition of Dangle from "Reno 911!," and Lydia Mayhew (McLendon-Covey), an insecure woman who's been dating the same married man for 20 years.

But it's Tiffany Riley Clarke (Jennifer Elise Cox; she played Jan in "The Brady Bunch Movie"), the office receptionist, who generates the biggest laughs. She constantly interrupts her co-workers in an attempt to remain the center of attention.

In an upcoming episode that features Eric McCormack ("Will & Grace"), one of the "Lovespring" executive producers, Tiffany tries to woo McCormack's character away from Lydia, breathily noting, "I'm skinny, pick me."

Cox is the breakout performer, but kudos also go to McLendon-Covey, who plays a character nothing like the cop she plays on "Reno 911!," and Jack Plotnick, a 1991 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. Plotnick is often cast in a namby-pamby role (as on Fox's "Action!"), but here he's the office psychologist who's the closest to "normal" in this nutty workplace, except perhaps for videographer Alex Odom (Mystro Clark), who has little to do in two episodes sent for review.

Created by Brad Isaacs and Guy Shalem, "Lovespring" could benefit from stronger plots with less ludicrous conclusions, but Lifetime seems smitten: The network already ordered an additional batch of "Lovespring" episodes.

'Footballers Wives'

If you feel "Desperate Housewives" is running out of steam; if you miss the trashiness of "Melrose Place"; if you want a guilty pleasure that you can feel slightly less guilty about because of the classy British accents on display, by all means, watch BBC America's "Footballers Wives." Beginning its fourth season at 10 tonight, this imported soap tracks the shenanigans of British soccer players and the women in their lives. Tanya (Zoe Lucker) is lead among them, battling with rival Amber (Laila Rouass) for the affections of David Beckham-like Conrad Gates (Ben Price). Both Tanya and Amber are pregnant, but only Amber is carrying Conrad's child.

Past seasons have featured Tanya killing her former husband through vigorous intercourse, Amber scarring Tanya with acid and Amber faking her own kidnapping. This year Tanya's trespasses get even darker and a rape mystery dominates early episodes, an indication that perhaps the show's most giddy days are in its past.

Last month, the show's British network announced "Footballers Wives" will not return after its fifth season due to diminishing ratings. Enjoy this camp-fest while it lasts.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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