2 new sitcoms: 1 bad, 1 decent

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Fox's "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" is its final new fall series premiere; alas, the network did not save the best for last.

On the other hand, TV Land's "The Exes," while not revolutionary, is actually a pretty competent laugh-track-filled sitcom that's significantly more entertaining than some of the network's previous efforts.

'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'

There's exactly one funny moment in this dreadful Fox sitcom pilot. It involves actress Katie Finneran, who deserves much better than this dreck, a pie and a comparison to an animal.

Other than that? "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" (9:30 tonight, WPGH) is a complete disaster.

'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'

When: 9:30 tonight, Fox.

Starring: Jaime Pressly.

'The Exes'

When: 10:30 tonight, TV Land.

Starring: Kristen Johnston.

Unhip moms Annie (Jaime Pressly, "My Name Is Earl") and Nikki (Ms. Finneran, "Wonderfalls") do not care for their teen daughters. One calls her daughter a rhymes-with-witch. And who can blame them, the daughters are pretty terrible: spoiled, cranky and unkind. This leads both moms to be terrified of their daughters' disapproval. It's a vicious cycle.

The daughters, Sophie (Kristi Lauren) and Mackenzie (Aisha Dee), are bland best friends and mean girls who treat their mothers with contempt, which, while realistic for some teenage girls, is not a lot of fun to watch.

Most of the jokes land with a heavy thud, particularly those pegged to Annie's homeschooled upbringing (we're to believe she's never heard of "Little House on the Prairie").

Ms. Finneran, in particular, gives it her all, and she does bring forth the only belly laugh in the pilot, but no amount of effort can salvage a terrible script.

Maybe if Ms. Finneran and Ms. Pressly starred in a show without obnoxious teenage daughters and poor parenting skills as the focus, this sitcom would be better. But that's not the show that premieres this week. Rather than hate "Teenage Daughter," save the energy and simply ignore it.

'The Exes'

TV Land continues its foray into original scripted programming with "The Exes" (10:30 tonight), the network's best sitcom effort since "Hot in Cleveland," which returns for new episodes tonight at 10.

With a cast of sitcoms-of-the-past all-stars, the series follows three divorced roommates: Clingy newcomer Stuart (David Alan Basche, "The Starter Wife"), smooth player Phil (Donald Faison, "Scrubs") and weird homebody Haskell (Wayne Knight, "Seinfeld"). They're brought together by their divorce attorney/neighbor, Holly (Kristen Johnston, "3rd Rock From the Sun"), who towers over her diminutive assistant, Eden (Kelly Stables, "Two and a Half Men").

"She looks like someone threw a hot chick in the dryer," Phil says of the petite blonde.

Plots are pretty standard -- dating and relationship issues predominate -- including in next week's episode when a jockey expresses a romantic interest in Holly.

"I guess I'm flattered in a 'Gulliver's Travels' kind of way," she says.

"The Exes" is a significant improvement on the disappointing "Retired at 35" and "Happily Divorced" thanks to better writing and strong comic timing by Mr. Faison and Ms. Johnston.

The show doesn't offer sophisticated comedy, but it's also not crass or vulgar, instead hitting a tone that's basically akin to a late 1980s sitcom. That formula has worked for "Hot in Cleveland," and it might work again for "The Exes."

A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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