Love, Inc.

The best that can be said about Love, Inc. is that UPN has a most excellent musical licensing agreement. Scene changes feature New York cityscapes backgrounded with music like the Black Eyed Peas’ “Don’t Phunk with My Heart,” and Kelis’ “Milkshake.” These cues aim for an “urban,” black-white audience, a nice try at crossover for a network whose shows usually target a black demographic. The sound is pleasant and generally hip.

Unfortunately, Love, Inc. is boringly un-hip. It tells the stories of a New York dating service named “Wing Woman,” a strangely masculine and militaristic name. Worse, it’s unwieldy, especially when Denise (Busy Phillips, so excellent as Audrey on Dawson’s Creek) remarks at one point, “I’ve been wing-womaning my butt off.”

Like Sex and the City, Love, Inc. features a quartet of single women in the Big Apple, each with her own issue. Viviana (Ion Overman) is the Latina whose only interest in any given man extends as far as whether he’s single and holds U.S. citizenship: she wants a green card. The office boss, Clea (Holly Robinson Peete), has just been dumped by the husband she met via Wing Woman and is getting back into the dating pool. Denise is getting tired of the business, remarking at one point, “I’ve been Wing Womaning my butt off.” And Francine (Reagan Gomez-Preston) remains a bit of a mystery.

As Clea points out, after Denise declares herself an “expert” on relationships, it’s strange then that she can set up all these lovelorn men, yet not keep one herself. The point is driven home in the premiere, which sees the return of Denise’s college boyfriend. She thinks he’s sought her out after long last, explaining to her friends that, while their relationship was great for a while he left her for another woman. Why she’d be excited then to see him reenter her life is anyone’s guess. It turns out that the appearance is coincidental; he’s just looking for a dating service. Despite the awkwardness, Denise decides to remain his contact person at Wing Woman, and then spends the rest of the episode making passive-aggressive remarks. She does ultimately rise about her own pettiness and secures a compatible mate for the ex, but we have to endure a series of terminally unfunny anecdotes about her insecurities beforehand.

If it’s trying to emulate Sex and the City, Love, Inc. misses the fact that that show presented us with complex characters from the get-go; here the single women are all pretty much one-shtick ponies. What’s worse, even though Sex did pretty much wrap up its single gals tidily in committed heterosexual romance by the end of the series, it nevertheless took a long time getting there, affording Carrie and company plenty of time to ruminate and act on their independence and power. The gals on Love, Inc., on the other hand, start off as needy and desperate as the sad sack clients of Wing Woman.

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