Disappointing summer premieres

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Anyone disappointed in Comedy Central's June series debut, "Lil' Bush," may be shocked to discover it was a work of brilliance compared to the network's latest, much greater disappointment, "American Body Shop" (10:30 tonight).

   

'American Body Shop'
When: 10:30 tonight, Comedy Central.
Starring: Peter Hulne.

'Eureka'
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday, Sci Fi Channel.
Starring: Colin Ferguson.
   

Ostensibly a "Reno 911!"-like comedy behind the scenes of Desert Body and Custom, "American Body Shop" is an unfunny excuse for bad ethnic jokes among a group of degenerate repair-shop employees. Yes, the joke is supposed to be on them -- look how ignorant these idiots are! -- but everything presented here is so broad, so grotesque as to lose any ability to make a comedic impact.

Sam (Peter Hulne) runs DBC with input from opportunistic receptionist Denise (Jill Bartlett) and little help from his crew of mechanics, including one who insists on strapping a Peruvian employee, who's deemed Mexican by another low-life, to the undercarriage of an SUV for a road test. They're trying to determine the source of a sound the vehicle is making.

The premiere also features Rob's travails with shop safety after a representative of his insurance company threatens to cancel the shop's policy if better safety measures aren't taken. Naturally, most of the employees end up on fire by the end of the episode.

There's nothing clever or original in "American Body Shop," a disappointing waste of time and squandering of Comedy Central's resources.

While we're on the subject of squandered resources ?

'Eureka'

For some reason this Sci Fi Channel dud commanded a larger audience than most of the network's other original series, including the critically acclaimed "Battlestar Galactica."

Though it's true that "Eureka" (9 p.m. Tuesday) has a premise worthy of a great series, the show continues to be a major letdown -- even as season two begins with a new production team in place.

Geniuses have been brought to the Pacific Northwest town of Eureka to work in a secret government lab where failures seem to outnumber successes. Season one ended with scientist Henry Deacon (Joe Morton) losing the love of his life, Kim, to an experiment that went awry. The effects of that blunder resonate into season two, as does the treachery of psychotherapist Beverly Barlowe (Debrah Farentino), who's reporting the town's secrets to someone malevolent, judging by his booming, evil-sounding voice in their phone conversations.

The primary problem with "Eureka" is that the characters never amount to anything more than cardboard types. Lead actor Colin Ferguson, as Sheriff Jack Carter, is immensely likeable, but he's given nothing in the way of a realistic, believable, flesh-and-blood character. Everyone on the show comes across much in the same way -- like the calculated creation of a TV writer .

That handicap, combined with an over-reliance on techno-babble about the assorted inventions that invariably drive the plot of most episodes, renders the show inert and lifeless. "Eureka" offers a dream concept for a series with gigawatts of potential that's never been realized -- and probably never will be.


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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