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These Friends of Mine

Standup comedian Ellen DeGeneres plays a single woman, Ellen Morgan, faced with such major moments as a bad photo on her driver's license and listening to gossip about her best friend.

With:
Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Arye Gross, Holly Fulger, Maggie Wheeler, Dave Higgins , William Bumiller, Matt Landers, Giovanni Ribisi, Duke Moosekian, Lois Viscoli.

Standup comedian Ellen DeGeneres plays a single woman, Ellen Morgan, faced with such major moments as a bad photo on her driver’s license and listening to gossip about her best friend.

Frenetic, whoopingly funny at times, just plain crass at others, pilot for “These Friends of Mine” tries for yocks from purposeless characters.

Opening in which Ellen and best friend Holly (Holly Fulger) appear at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles for Ellen’s photo sesh suggests that writers Carol Black , Neal Marlens and David Rosenthal have cooked up a smart, funny addition for ABC (series will play 9:30-10 p.m. Wednesdays starting tout de suite).

But it doesn’t take long for deterioration. Ellen’s platonic roomie, Adam (Arye Gross), and his smart-mouthed friend Anita (Maggie Wheeler) begin shredding Holly’s new-found boyfriend while Ellen, at first trying to be loyal to Holly, succumbs and listens to the prattle.

No one’s served well by the proceedings. The pilot’s coarse, coldblooded outcome plays on casual sex as entertainment; the series, which will be filmed at Sony Studios, better find more suitable material than using people as one-night stands before dropping them .

As for talented DeGeneres, her DMV photo act (with Matt Landers as the photographer) shows what she and the writers can develop without crotch jokes; otherwise she’s handed forced material that doesn’t work. Fulger does a good job as her foil, while Gross and Wheeler present insensitive, unlikable characters with finesse.

Marlens’ direction is short on subtlety, but Joe Abel’s production design smacks of ingenuity.

These Friends of Mine

Production: ABC, Tues. March 29, 9:30 p.m. Filmed at Culver Studios by the Black/Marlens Co. and Touchstone TV. Executive producers, Carol Black, Neal Marlens; co-executive producers, David Rosenthal, Warren Bell; producers, Mark Grossan, Richard Day; director, Marlens; writers, Black, Marlens, Rosenthal.

Crew: Camera, Gregg Heschong; editors, Michael Sale, Andy Zall; sound, Michael Ballin; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden; production designer, Joe Aubel. 30 MIN.

With: Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Arye Gross, Holly Fulger, Maggie Wheeler, Dave Higgins , William Bumiller, Matt Landers, Giovanni Ribisi, Duke Moosekian, Lois Viscoli.

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