'In the Motherhood'

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Mom always said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything." Here's the amendment for networks: "If you can't say anything new, don't say anything." Because when you do, you end up with a midseason replacement series like ABC's "In the Motherhood," a watered-down adaptation of the racier Web series.

Not that the TV version doesn't have its charms: Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") are blessedly back in series rotation. (Main third mama Jessica St. Clair is fine but a bit greener than the other ladies.) Unfortunately, they're playing only slightly re-tooled versions of the characters that made them famous: Jane (Hines) is a frenetic, wide-eyed, cynical single parent who avoids home life by sharing a drink with her perfectionist sister Emily (St. Clair) and buddy Rosemary (Mullally), a black-clad narcissist who boinked Jane's manny Horatio (Horatio Sanz).

The first episodes have good moments — throwaway lines including Hines commenting on her Renee Zellweger-heavy DVD collection with, "I gotta get out more" and Sanz noting that his Santa-costumed belly is "90% quilted polyfiber and 10% chalupas." But the swing-for-the-fences humor tends to bunt rather than hit home while trying to focus on the trials and tribulations of being a mom in suburbia, a concept that was fresh around 1972.

The fast pace and changing scenery take the traditional sitcom setup out of its hermetically sealed environment, which is a relief. But while the premiere episode holds together well (Emily's son learns there's no Santa and shares that with his fellow kindergarteners, sparking a riot; Jane has a date; Rosemary fakes pregnancy), the follow-up episode — featuring a nanny strike, bad teeth and Jane getting locked out of her house — doesn't hold together. Even with the combined power of Hines and Mullally, it's hard to know if this is the right 'hood to be investing in.

On the other hand, there is this hilarious Web series that might be worth checking out. … (partialdiff)
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