AS IF and THE RANDOM YEARS. From UPN, a pair of half-hour series, both
about 20-somethings, but very different in style. Tonight at 9 and 9:30,
respectively, on WWOR/9.
'AS IF" COULD be likened to a soap-opera variation of "Friends" if the NBC
hit hadn't been coming on like a soap itself lately. Then, too, "As If" has a
restless, MTV-like visual style and, instead of studio-audience laughs, a
hip-hoppy soundtrack that almost never stops, even when the characters are
conversing. So it's really not that much like "Friends" except that, well, OK,
it does have six regular characters - three male, three female - and they live
in a big city, and they're preoccupied with sex, and they're about the ages
Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Joey were when "Friends" first
appeared in the previous century.
If the preceding sounds a little discombobulated, hey, "As If" will do that
to you if you're closer to retirement age than puberty. It's TV aimed at the
generation that supposedly thrives on media overload. It is to situation comedy
what those informational "crawls" are to TV news. It's hard to imagine anyone
over 30 watching "As If" without the aid of Dramamine. Frankly, it's hard to
imagine anyone over 20 watching it at all.
"As If" is an American version of a British series that's already in its
second season over there. Presumably, something was lost in translation. It's
about as funny as drunk friends when you aren't, and the serious dialogue makes
"The Young and the Restless" sound like an Edward Albee play.
The debut is mainly focused on dorky but boundlessly optimistic Jamie
(Derek Hughes). He's determined to bed beautiful Nikki (Adrienne Wilkinson), a
tenacious tease who has no qualms about using him to attract a sexier,
love-'em- leave-'em type who also hangs out at their favorite bar. Their friend
Sooz (Emily Corrie), who's more level- headed than her multicolored dreadlocks
might suggest, spends most of the episode trying to warn Nikki she's going to
get loved and left. Meanwhile, Sasha (Tracie Thoms) is pouting because her
boyfriend, Rob (Chris Engen), didn't show up to cheer her on at a VJ audition.
Sixth friend Alex (Robin Dunne) has little to do in the opener, though he
will be coming to grips with being gay in future episodes. Hughes makes a
lasting impression - in an irritating, over-the-top way - and Corrie has a
depth that suggests she'll get a better show after this one is discarded. And
even if UPN's schedule weren't due for overhauling by the new owner,
"The Random Years" is a much more conventional half- hour. In fact, it
recalls some of the sitcoms that have flopped in NBC' post-"Friends" time slot.
It centers on the post-collegiate life of three buddies who share the
crummiest, phoniest-looking New York apartment seen on TV since the days of
Ralph and Alice Kramden.
In the opener, the scenes shift back and forth between a restaurant, where
Alex (Will Friedle) and Wiseman (Joshua Ackerman) are having disastrous dates,
and the apartment, where Todd (Sean Murray) and a temp Alex hired to help him
with his Web site business end up playing a variation of strip poker that
revolves around a popular PBS series instead of cards. Don't laugh. Or, rather,
do. Thanks to Murray's effortless slacker charm, the "strip 'Antiques
Roadshow'" bit is the only thing that saves "The Random Years" from being even
more forgettable than "Inside Schwartz."