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Freshman Dorm

Say what you want about the new series "Freshman Dorm," but it moves up a class before its second episode. In other words, it's sophomoric.

With:
Cast: Matthew Fox, Paige French, Robyn Lively, Kevin Mambo, Arlene Taylor, Casper Van Dien, Robin Thomas, Vince Grant, Lisa Fuller, Bibi Besch, Grace Zabriskie, Ernie Lively.

Say what you want about the new series “Freshman Dorm,” but it moves up a class before its second episode. In other words, it’s sophomoric.

CBS has boldly gone where no other network has–except for Fox–by targeting the same audience that goes gaga over “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place.” The CBS summer entry is in the same neighborhood and carries with it some of the same shortcomings as the popular Fox shows.

The one-hour premiere of “Dorm” gets an F in originality, and that does not stand for freshness.

Though in a different setting, chances are these characters will bear a certain familiarity for the “Melrose” and “90210” maven.

In the dorm, which is coed, there’s K.C., a poor Hispanic beauty who shares a room with Lulu, an upper-crust New York beauty, and Molly, an apple pie beauty from Milwaukee.

Across the hall, there’s handsome Zack from Southern California by way of Arkansas, and handsome Alex, a black who rounds out the ethnic mix. K.C. immediately falls for Zack, but she’s too busy trying to hide her background and “own the world” attitude to know what’s really important–like a relationship with Zack. Molly’s boyfriend is handsome jock Danny, who wants to marry Molly in the worst way. But Molly’s not so sure.

Well, you get the picture. In this dorm, there are no average-looking people, no people out to simply get an education. There’s not a political activist in sight.

The reality quotient in this episode is dangerously low. We see students preoccupied with such activities as volleyball on the beach (perhaps a salute to our Olympic athletes), playing loud music at 9 a.m. (ouch) and surfing, for the serious frosh.

We do not see a library (colleges do have these) nor do we see students actually studying (a novel concept).

There are several classroom segments, but both are glossed over, with only a faint stab at humor. One features the elderly, boring Shakespeare prof who routinely puts students to sleep.

But the semester’s just beginning and “Dorm” does have some redeeming qualities. Lulu (Paige French) is a refreshing character, who brings some panache to the proceedings. A scene where she shows up the snobbish sorority queen with some witty parries is about the best “Dorm” has to offer.

The photography helps divert us from some of the humdrum with some nice shots of coastal Southern California. And the music is–well–handsome.

But for the most part, this is a pretty shallow look at campus life all wrapped up and packaged for the “Melrose” crowd. So, though it might fail in getting beyond stereotype, it will likely get an A in the ratings.

Freshman Dorm

(Tues. (11), 9-10 p.m., CBS)

Production: Filmed on Southern California locations by the Steve Tisch Co. in association with O.T.M.L. Prods. Inc. Exec producer, Steve Tisch; co-producers, Tracey Thompson, Janet Kovalcik and Lorin Salob; writer, Kovalcik; director, Armand Mastroianni.

Crew: Music, John Debney; camera, Gideon Porath; production designer, Joseph Rainey; editor, Stuart Bass; based on book series "Freshman Dorm" by Linda Alper Cooney and Kevin Cooney.

Cast: Cast: Matthew Fox, Paige French, Robyn Lively, Kevin Mambo, Arlene Taylor, Casper Van Dien, Robin Thomas, Vince Grant, Lisa Fuller, Bibi Besch, Grace Zabriskie, Ernie Lively.

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