Two new ABC Family series make it clear that the network is interested in only part of the family. | ★★★ out of 4 stars
ABC Family may be the most misleading name in cable. The network, available in more than 96 million homes, isn’t interested in getting grandparents and their flocks to huddle around the TV for popcorn and “Little House on the Prairie.”
“Family” is part of the title only because Pat Robertson made it a stipulation when he sold the business in 2001.
No, the only audience the ABC flagship cares about is young women, ages 15 to 30, hungry for empowered female characters, sexy bad boys and great looking shoes — a formula that’s put to work in two new series, “Chasing Life” and “Young & Hungry.”
In “Life,” premiering Tuesday, newspaper reporter April Carver (Italia Ricci) faces a barrage of challenges.
Her little sister, struggling to get over the death of their father, has turned into Lindsay Lohan, skipping school assignments to chug tequila and hang out at tattoo parlors. An estranged uncle is desperate to squeeze back into her life. A work rival wants to stomp her out with her impossibly high heels. Her gruff editor makes Clark Kent’s boss, Perry White, look like the Dalai Lama.
Oh, and she’s just gotten a cancer diagnosis.
Terrible stuff — except this is female fantasyland, which means there’s also a sassy best friend who makes for an ideal drinking partner, a dreamboat date on a rooftop and a shot at landing the biggest story of the year.
Silly? You bet. A cub reporter would be covering zoning committees, not a scandal in a gubernatorial race, and her ethical code seems to have been lifted from the textbook of notorious fabricator Jayson Blair. Cancer can provide material for laughs, as proven by Showtime’s woefully underrated “The Big C.” But most of the quips are one-liners that wouldn’t make the cut on its vastly superior predecessor “Gilmore Girls.”
Ricci, an Alyssa Milano look-alike, is engaging and strong-willed, but it will take more than girl power for this to be worth chasing.
“Young & Hungry,” a sitcom premiering June 25, fares slightly better, largely because its premise is simple: Gabi (Emily Osment), a young woman teetering on the poverty line, attempts to get a job as personal chef for a hunky tycoon (Jonathan Sadowski), despite the protests of his protective publicist (Rex Lee). Cut to dreamboat date on a rooftop.
“Hannah Montana” veteran Osment obviously learned a thing or two about hamming it up for the camera from Miley Cyrus. She has so much energy — dancing while she cooks, babbling nonsensical phrases, darting around the spacious pad — that by the end of the first episode, viewers might feel winded.
The jokes are also full of life — and naughtiness. When she spots the lavish refrigerator in the kitchen, she practically wraps herself around it.
“Last time I saw this much stainless steel, I was getting a Pap smear,” she moans.
Then there’s an unprintable oral-sex bit that might even test the waters on “2 Broke Girls.”
Just another reason to avoid the channel on family night.
Neal.Justin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431
★★★ out of 4 stars