EmptyAirdate: 9-10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 (the CW)
The new hour "Privileged" looks pretty much like every WB/CW cutesy teen/young adult gambit rolled into a single contrived package.
It explores the lives of rich people in a way that makes reality seem exactly like a cartoon. But for those who like a little realism with their comedy, it doesn't fly too terribly high.
This show wants to be an "Ally McBeal"-esque broad piece of serio-comedy but hasn't really the slightest idea how to pull it off. So it makes do instead with something that's really neither animal nor vegetable, looking to combine poignance with zaniness and accomplishing neither without a whole lot of panache.
This, even though star JoAnna Garcia is charismatic and comically appealing, and Anne Archer turns in an energetically saucy performance as a self-absorbed society dame. But it's not enough to make you want to return to this opulent address week after week.
Garcia plays 23-year-old Yale grad Megan Smith, who aspires to the world of journalism (poor sap) but winds up slaving ineffectively for a tabloid rag. After getting fired in the pilot, she hooks up almost inexplicably with a cosmetics mogul, Laurel Limoges (Archer), who is looking for someone who can stomach the combatlike assignment of playing live-in tutor to her 16-year-old teen granddaughters, Rose (Lucy Kate Hale) and Sage (Ashley Newbrough). They're spoiled rotten, mean, lazy, rebellious and snobbish. And this being Palm Beach, Fla., the mansion where they'll all dwell is insanely luxurious and comes complete with a private suites, gorgeous convertible car and gay live-in chef (Allan Louis).
So you can guess what's going to happen from here. The rich-bitch twins will make life a living hell for the well-meaning but guileless Megan. She also gets pursued by a hot dude (Brian Hallisay) next door who happens to be dating her estranged, self-absorbed sister, Lily (Kristina Apgar). In other words, life is anything but a cabaret for this girl.
The opener, written by executive producer Rina Mimoun, sets the table for the stranger-in-a-strange-land, fish-out-of-water conceit capably but without a whole lot of cleverness. We feel like we've driven down this road before, or at least one that looks nearly identical. To its credit, "Privileged" doesn't pile on the kind of self-aware stylings that we've come to expect in the single-camera era. And being an hour rather than 30 minutes, it has a bit more time to build the characters into something more than one-dimensional cardboard cutouts.
But aside from Garcia, Archer and Louis (who does a colorful turn as the chef), there's too much sizzle here and too little steak. People don't really speak with the freewheeling rat-a-tat-tat confidence that they do here, and aside from Garcia none are interesting enough to much care about, much less relate to. This isn't a promising sign for a series just leaving the starting gate.
Production: Alloy Entertainment, Warner Bros. TV and CBS Paramount Network TV.
Cast: JoAnna Garcia, Anne Archer, Lucy Kate Hale, Ashley Newbrough, Michael Cassidy, Allan Louis, Brian Hallisay, Kristina Apgar, Debi Mazar.
Executive producers: Rina Mimoun, Michael Engler, Leslie Morgenstein, Bob Levy.
Producer: Peter Burrell.
Based on the book: "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls" by Zoey Dean.
Writer: Rina Mimoun. Director: Michael Engler.
Co-producer: Scott Swanson.
Directors of photography: Michael Weaver, Bobby La Bonge.
Production designer: Bill Brzeski<cq>.
Costume designers: Robert Blackman, Nicole Gorsuch.
Editors: Lisa Lassek, John Murray.
Music: Joey Newman.
Casting: Patrick J. Rush.