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'Carpoolers,' premiering Tuesday on ABC

Diane Werts
Newsday (MCT)

Watch ABC's two new shows Tuesday night, and you might throw in the towel on sitcoms altogether.

ABC didn't make its "Cavemen" premiere episode available for review. But the since-scrapped pilot shown to critics this summer sure looked as if it had - can't resist - primitive brains behind it.

Ditto its Tuesday companion, "Carpoolers," a slice-of-life ditz fest in which characters likewise behave like absolutely no one does in real life. (Or in any alternate universe.) This latest unlikable bunch consists of four men who drive to work together and further hang out for no discernible reason. (ABC likes its unlikely male quartets this fall. See Thursday night's "Big Shots." On second thought, don't.)

In this artificial assortment, Jerry O'Connell ("Crossing Jordan") is the just-divorced ladies' man. Fred Goss ("Sons & Daughters") sweats over his wife's $200 toaster and their lamebrain slacker son. Jerry Minor slaves at work and home while his kids' mother watches Oprah all day. And fresh-faced new dad Tim Peper just joined the group. His wife made them all cookies. Awww. He'll have to be indoctrinated.

Some might consider the show's sense of humor "heightened," but I'll go with "insulting." Everything in Tuesday's premiere feels as if it's been speeded up by 20 percent, with cartoon music playing to accentuate the "funny."

O'Connell drools about "a woman so hot you could have sex with her phone number." Goss' unemployed linebacker-size son, who wears tightie-whities but no pants, is so dim he thinks dinner out costs a thousand dollars. The guys giggle a lot and commiserate about the horrific possibility that Goss' wife (Faith Ford) makes more money than him. (And maybe takes top position in other activities, too!) O'Connell advises Goss that next he'll find an, um, "posterior"-print on the sliding glass door because she's cheating, and then she'll take all his money.

Say hey to the family hour!

"Carpoolers" is like a flimsy "Saturday Night Live" skit pounded home and running on beyond endurance. Actors sputter their lines, dither and whimper like some 1950s sitcom. At least we don't have that era's helium-fueled laugh track insulting our intelligence. (Wait - it might help.)

Of course the show handles that by itself just fine, its sour take on married life playing out with ludicrous condescension. Next week, O'Connell tries scoring with a married-man-dating babe by pretending he's not only hitched but the father of four kids. Whose names would be Emma, Dasher, Luciano and Colgate.

Are we laughing yet?



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