It's no secret that TV comedies have been in a low cycle (few traditional multicamera sitcoms remain on the air), but CBS's "The Class" does its part to alleviate that drought. Cute but not cloying, funny but not overflowing with gratuitous sex jokes, "The Class" earns a B+, which easily puts it in contention for valedictorian among fall 2006's freshman comedies. (NBC's "30 Rock," premiering next month, is its only true competition.)
Created by David Crane ("Friends") and Jeffrey Klarik ("Mad About You"), "The Class" (8 p.m. tomorrow) begins as good guy pediatrician Ethan Haas (a winning Jason Ritter of "Joan of Arcadia") throws a surprise party for his fiance, inviting members of the third-grade class where the couple met.
Their former classmates are an eclectic bunch: sour, sarcastic Kat (Lizzy Caplan, "Related") and her ditzy sister Lina (Heather Goldenhersh); depressive Richie (Jesse Tyler Ferguson); unhappily married Nicole (Andrea Anders, "Joey") and her one-time love, Duncan (Jon Bernthal); gay Kyle (Sean Maguire) and his prom date Holly (Lucy Punch).
Ethan's party runs off the rails when his fiance dumps him in front of their guests. But assorted other couples connect or reconnect and take the focus off Ethan and Kat, who appear destined for one another. By diffusing the "will they or won't they?" with multiple couplings, Crane and Klarik attempt a different approach.
Future episodes show that the characters don't become a group of tight friends immediately; instead, it's like watching four separate sitcoms, as the eight characters pair off in assorted combinations. Will that format work over the long haul? We'll see, but in the first three episodes made available for review, "The Class" doesn't lack for laughs or likable characters.Lina (Heather Goldenhersh, left) and Kat Warbler (Lizzy Caplan, right) are twin sisters and polar opposites "The Class."
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When: 8 p.m. tomorrow, CBS.
Starring: Jason Ritter.
TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582.