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Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New sitcom is familiar, yet novel

April 4, 2012

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A generation removed from “Three’s Company,” the sitcom “Best Friends Forever” (7:30 p.m., NBC) revisits the “two girls and a guy sharing an apartment” story. The results are more deflating than stimulating — at least for Joe (Luka Jones), the guy in the triangle.

A product of post-“Bridesmaids” and post-Chelsea Handler sensibilities, “Forever” kicks off with fairly perfunctory girl talk about matters that used to be labeled “private parts” for a reason. This patter erupts almost instantly and spasmodically, as if the show were clearing its throat before finding a more assured voice.

Pretty, neurotic Jessica (Jessica St. Clair) is in the middle of some transcontinental girl talk (or girl Skype) with best friend, Lennon (Lennon Parham), when she receives divorce papers from her unseen husband. Wailing ensues. In a sign of the writers’ attention to detail and Jessica’s well-rendered perfectionism, she notices that the cad did not have the papers sent by messenger or FedEx, but sent two-day Priority Mail.

She leaves the West Coast home of her cheap, faithless man for New York, where Lennon lives with Joe. This is the generic, mindlessly affluent New York of “Sex and the City” fantasies. Jones is well-cast as Joe, the slightly dweeby every-slob.

The genuinely affectionate ties that bind Joe to Lennon are as nerdy as their first date at a Medieval Times restaurant. The intrusion of Jessica’s wounded, needy Martha Stewart into their goofy cocoon is wrenching — particularly for Joe, who seems new to the idea of commitment.

‘‘Forever” unfolds without a laugh track and blessedly free of the punch line-driven rhythm of so many sitcoms. Like “Bridesmaids,” this comedy mixes raunchy humor with fleeting moments of pathos and emotional honesty. I’m not yet certain if this show marks an evolution in the sitcom, or simply a mess. And that’s enough to make me want to stick around for more.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Candid-camera shenanigans on “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” (7 p.m., NBC).

• Two hours of performances on “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).

• After tonight’s two-hour finale, “One Tree Hill” (7 p.m., CW) will finally end.

• Altar-ed states on the season finale of “Happy Endings” (8:30 p.m., ABC).

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