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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:
FOUR KINGS (NBC)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "Emmy Award winners David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, creators of the award-winning comedy "Will & Grace," present "Four Kings," an exploration of four lifelong friends on the cusp of adulthood: Barry (Seth Green, the "Austin Powers" franchise, "The Italian Job"), Bobby (Shane McRae, "One Life to Live"), Ben (Josh Cooke, "Committed") and Jason (Todd Grinnell, "The Dangling Conversation") couldn't imagine life without one another. Since childhood, these bosom buddies haven't spent so much as a birthday apart, but when Ben's grandmother, who dubbed them the "Four Kings of New York," passes away, Ben inherits her apartment and decides to share it with his lifelong friends. But despite the comfort of their posh new surroundings and efforts to cling to their youth, adulthood begins drawing these Four Kings knee-deep into situations that aren't always easy to escape in this honest exploration of life-term friendship."
What did they leave out: Kiele Sanchez plays Jenny, Ben's (Josh Cooke's) girlfriend in the pilot although it appears that role is being recast (or written out completely).
The plot in a nutshell: Ben (Josh Cooke, the normal one), Barry (Seth Green, the angry one), Bobby (Shane McRae, the slacker one) and Jason (Todd Grinnell, the gay one) are four best friends from childhood, still tight after all these years. When Ben's grandmother dies, he inherits her lavish New York apartment and struggles with what to do with it. Does he move in with his girlfriend (Kiele Sanchez) and take their relationship to the next level or share it with his friends and have them move in?
What works: When the show steers clear of its "plot" (more on this in the next section), it works as just being about four buddies. The quartet actually feels like friends, not just random people used to bounce jokes off each other. They kid around, pick on each other, etc. just like most friends do without feeling forced. Seth Green without a doubt steals the show as the bitter Barry, and his scenes involving his equally as bitter girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) are the pilot's highlights.
What doesn't: That being said, the "plot" element is just downright painful. Not satisfied with just being a sitcom about four buddies and their dating foibles, the show feels the need to tack on an unnecessary plot device which has Ben inheriting his grandmother's apartment and the baggage the comes with it. Even worse is that it all actually feels like an afterthought - a few brief flashbacks show that Ben's grandma used to call the group "The Four Kings of New York" (hence the title), but that's about it. Nobody really mourns her or misses her (despite the implied connection in the flashbacks), they just bicker amongst themselves.
The challenges ahead: Is there room for more comedy on NBC's drama-obsessed schedule? And in an era where "Joey" and "Will & Grace" find themselves struggling to maintain an audience should there be? We'll find out in 2006 on NBC.