WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 9:30 on ABC/7

REASON TO WATCH Think of it as the third (-wife) act of "Modern Family."

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Despite the pilot's meet-cute involving a karaoke-night ER visit, movie mainstay Malin Akerman and "West Wing" grad Bradley Whitford make a pretty shrewd couple. Er, trio. Oops, quartet. As her generation-older newlywed husband, he brings along two diametrically opposed ex-wives. "Starter" Marcia Gay Harden is all uptight physician, while Michaela Watkins plays touchy-feely uber flake.

Then there's the kids. First-marriage boy/girl twin teens. Second-marriage boy, adopted, of Chinese heritage about which the tyke babbles precociously.

Can these multi-parents avert a looming dead-hamster disaster? What of the vodka-in-water-bottle misadventure? How will Akerman handle her new kid-control role -- as a cool older sister, no-nonsense aunt or oblivious stepmom?

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MY SAY This being sitcom television -- even if it's shot single-camera (with narration, this fall's signature nuisance) -- Akerman has to be everything. Good thing she's a nimble actress. From "The Heartbreak Kid" to "Watchmen" to Adult Swim's nutso lampoon "Childrens Hospital," she seems to nail the tone of everything she touches. Akerman even, God bless her, aces an epically extended drunk scene (which is exponentially more than should ever be asked in a sitcom pilot). Whitford is always winning, and even the poor exes find wiggle room inside their cliches.

BOTTOM LINE. Tonight's pilot chews through material like nobody's business. Can the series sustain the pace?