- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No ‘Love’ lost

After shooting the pilot, Shannen Doherty was yanked from the UPN comedy “Love, Inc.”

The troubled actress may have plenty of regrets, but trust us, losing this gig won’t be one of them.

The new comedy, debuting at 9 tonight, centers on a group of savvy matchmakers at Love, Inc. — a dating consulting firm owned by Clea (Holly Robinson Peete of “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper”) — who with the help of Denise (Busy Phillips of “Dawson’s Creek”) and other staffers help the lovelorn put their best foot forward before stepping out with potential suitors.

However, both could use a hand with their own love lives.

Miss Phillips’ Denise is as smug as she is stunning, and , like her clients, she struggles to take a chance on love when her nine-year marriage ends. Similarly, the professional veneer of Miss Peete’s Clea (Love, Inc’s owner) hides the fact that her marriage is on the skids and headed toward divorce.

Not surprisingly, the show’s other characters (such as Barry, the agency’s conspiracy-theory-spouting wingman, played by Vince Vieluf) also have fractured love lives.

Perhaps they’ll have better luck connecting other singles to potential mates — if the show lasts that long.

“Love, Inc.,” which also contains a few semi-lewd gags, isn’t horrible. It’s just not consistently funny enough to woo viewers on a weekly basis.

Our prediction on the show’s future: Consider it a brief fling. A long-term relationship seems unlikely.

‘Extras’ needs work

“Extras,” the new HBO comedy, all but wilts under the colossal expectations summoned by the name Ricky Gervais. He’s the brains behind the hit BBC series “The Office.”

As creator of the workplace comedy, he tapped into the universal frustrations flowing from the modern office. With “Extras,” however, Mr. Gervais dabbles in a different environment, one in which we’re all strangers.

The series, which originated in Britain and arrives stateside Sunday (for a six-week run in the 10:30 p.m. slot after HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) follows the daily doings of Andy Millman (Mr. Gervais), a frustrated fortysomething Englishman who, despite his inexperience in showbiz, gives up his day job to pursue acting.

The meaty roles never materialize, but Andy remains convinced that his big break is just around the corner. Work as an extra, he surmises, is only temporary.

Don’t count on it.

The premiere episode finds Andy appearing in a version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” for the umpteenth time. While on the set, he fancies Suzanne (Charlotte Palmer), another extra, but realizes her Catholicism might get in the way; he’s an unapologetic atheist. Still, that doesn’t stop him from pretending to be a true believer to impress her — a fib that leads to an uncomfortable, and labored, scene at a Bible study group where his true feelings are unmasked.

Meanwhile, Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen), Andy’s fellow extra, is dating a man who likes naughty phone chats. She isn’t sure how to respond but gets unexpected counseling from Kate Winslet (radiant in a cheeky cameo).

Clearly, Mr. Gervais wants to confront the lies both large and small we tell ourselves in the name of love. Here, though, that theme flounders while the players lunge for laughs. We get a few tawdry bits of dialogue, some cultural clashes involving the handicapped (better handled in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and visual humor stemming from extras lounging on the set in Nazi regalia.

Yet none of it warrants the enthusiasm “Extras” has earned so far by way of Mr. Gervais’ prior success.

Sunday’s rare sparkle is supplied by Miss Winslet, playing a cynical version of herself, and Andy’s daffy agent (a character who’s actually called Agent and played by Stephen Merchant) who flummoxes his client by relying too heavily on his computer and cell phone.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff, Web and wire reports.

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