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Expect the expected from 'The Exes'


WHEN|WHERE Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. on TV Land

REASON TO WATCH Ex-"Scrub"-er Donald Faison's new sitcom; with Wayne Knight (Newman from "Seinfeld") and Kristen Johnston ("3rd Rock From the Sun").

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Three divorced guys live together, while their divorce attorney lives across the hall. That's it! You are now almost fully up to speed on this latest from TV Land, which doesn't believe in complex Chekhovian setups in its homegrown products.

Phil Chase (Faison) and Haskell Bing (Knight) are blissfully co-habitating because neither expects anything of the other. Phil's a sports agent; Haskell sells tchotchkes on the Internet, and the only words they exchange each day are "good morning." One day their pal, Holly (Johnston) -- a divorce attorney -- asks them to take in her latest client, Stuart Gardner (David Alan Basche, "Lipstick Jungle").

Stuart's a lovely guy, but he's highly vocal -- likes to talk, and organize, and otherwise be an extreme annoyance to his new roommates. In tomorrow's premiere, Phil tries to set up Stuart with a date; next week, Phil tries to set up Holly with a date -- a short one. (Johnston, as you know, is very tall.)

MY SAY Genial, good-hearted, retro -- "The Exes" is exactly what you think it is. There's no mystery here. There's not supposed to be any mystery here. TV Land is about comfort food, and that's what is being served here. Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Cheese sauce on top. OK, the nutritional value hovers near zero, but you won't leave this joint with an empty stomach. Comfort food is also familiar food, and "The Exes" is terribly familiar, hilariously familiar. Watch this and you'll start to think, "Man, I could move to Hollywood and write this stuff." And so you could, my friend. "The Exes" is like anything you've ever seen. This is, for example, "The Big Bang Theory," absent the big bang theory. It's "Happy Endings" or "That Girl" or something else that's not coming immediately to mind because that "something" else is almost too obvious.

BOTTOM LINE Familiar doesn't mean bad, and there's some likable charm here. Faison, Basche and the always-good Johnston are fine. Knight is underplayed, but that's fixable. You could do worse.


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