A so-so sister act

"Related": Four sisters, from high-powered to ditzy, keep up girl talk.

related 88 (photo credit: )
related 88
(photo credit: )
There's a fine line between a TV hit and a flop, and Xtra HOT's new Tuesday night entry Related maddeningly walks that tightrope. One minute we loved this new series about four Brooklyn sisters and the next we hated it, which perhaps explains why its future in the US is still up for discussion among network bigwigs. Never having had a sister of our own, unfortunately, we can't judge the WB network show on that score. But considering its almost incestuous roots and obvious attempts to emulate other successful "chick flick" TV shows that have gone before, we came away a mite disappointed, if overall amused. Maybe the great opening set us up, although we're not sure a "women's show" should necessarily begin in ...the kitchen. With one-liners zipping through the air at warp speed, we quickly met all four of the Sorelli girls: Ginnie (Jennifer Esposito of Crash), the high-powered lawyer; Anne (Kiele Sanchez, Married to the Kellys), the psychologist; Marjee (Lizzie Caplan, The Pitts), the ditzy party planner, and youngest sister Rose (Laura Breckenridge), who's just switched majors at NYU - from pre-med to experimental theater. That kitchen banter, ahead of a poker game featuring rules that include Porn Star ("sixes and nines are wild"), was wonderful, ending with Rose revealing to her sisters that their dad is getting engaged to his girlfriend, whom they loathe. "We should... have an engagement dinner," suggests one sibling. "Or we could poison her," suggests the other. "Well, either way, we have to make a reservation," chips in a third. That kind of writing, plus the fact that the show's a product of TV minds previously involved in Sex and the City and Friends, made us expect great stuff. And although there were elements of the show's impressive pedigree - with the obligatory scenes of Manhattan, catchy music, and women talking about relationships - we knew there was a problem when we noticed they sped up the shots of the NYC streets, in an attempt to make a mostly fast-talking, fast-moving program seem even more frenetic. Call it Super Perky. It didn't work, nor did several other bits in the show: the split screen of the sisters talking to each other on their "phone chain" has been done to death. Anne's slow break-up with her boyfriend seemed interminable and annoying as the show suddenly jumped the tracks and went all Sisters on us. Ditto for the scenes in which Ginnie dealt with trying to share her pregnancy with her husband Bob (Cullum Blue of the much-missed, now that it's over, Dead Like Me). And Sela Ward, Swoosie Kurtz, et al did the sisters-facing-crisis-together thing better, not to mention Chekhov. In between, however, there was some very good stuff: Caplan, for one, is lots of fun as Marjee, jumping full force on her eviction notice after discovering it tacked to her door while she tried to handle a celeb party featuring pug puppies. We also loved Ginnie not quite being able to understand from Anne whether her relationship with Bob was in trouble simply through words. "Act it out for me," she tells her teary sibling. We assume those of the opposite sex with sisters of their own will, like, totally relate to the exchanges between them, as when Marjee is grossed out by Rose's new tongue stud and bawls her out for it. "Just because you're my sister doesn't mean you have some kind of window into my soul," says Rose. LIKE WE SAID, however, the good parts are mixed with the make-you-gag parts, as when, after Ginnie's pregnancy is finally revealed to the whole family by one of her big-mouth sisters at the party, the whole family shows up with food and presents for the mom-to-be. That included Anne with... the girls' baby blanket. Cue tinkly music. Fortunately, the writers were clever enough to add a line referring to just which one left the vomit smell in the relic, before signing off with Ginnie lovingly clutching the heirloom. So there you have it: ups and downs, laughs and groans. Related (Tuesday, 22:00) is definitely a mixed bag that will no doubt draw a large female following, but doesn't quite go down as must-see TV. But sisterhood is powerful - if you've got one or more, you'll probably love having yet another show to talk about during those phone chain conversations.