Filmed in Rome and Los Angeles by the Bedford Falls Co. in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick; created, written and co-executive produced by Jason Katims; co-executive produced and directed by Mark Piznarski; producer, Peter Schindler; director of photography, Paul Cameron; production designer, Vincent Jefferds; Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick struck a particularly resonant chord among baby boomers with “thirtysomething,” a series some viewers loved to love and others loved to hate, for pretty much the same reason: Its touchy-feely depiction of two yuppie Philadelphia couples and their circle struggling to deal with issues of adulthood and parenthood. Critics also loved “My So-Called Life,” whose subject was adolescence, though viewers were harder to find.
Their latest entry finds Herskovitz and Zwick in the 20s, with “Relativity.” The first two episodes have all the trademarks of a Bedford Falls production: strong production values, sensitive writing and first-rate ensemble acting, including very appealing lead performances by David Conrad and Kimberly Williams as Isabel and Leo, unlikely lovers who meet sweet in Rome and take up together back in Los Angeles, where they share a love for the L.A. Clippers.
The setup is that Leo, a house painter, is cut from rougher cloth than Isabel , who also happens to be engaged to someone else. In Rome, where Leo is contemplating his 26th birthday and the recent death of his mother, and Isabel is contemplating that marriage proposal, they go on picnics, ride mopeds and kiss long and hard. Inevitably, she says to him, “We can’t ever see each other when we get back, you know that, right?” and of course we know nothing of the sort.
Things are complicated slightly by the fact that the fiance (Randall Batinkoff a guest star and presumably a goner after the premiere) is a nice guy who really loves her, but when true love calls, what’re you gonna do?
Actually, that is the question facing “Relativity,” and on the strength of the first two installments, the answer isn’t very promising. Isabel moves into Leo’s danger-zone digs, to the horror of her family and the amusement of his roommate (who has no intention of vacating). There are class issues and lifestyle issues. Leo has a troubled younger brother and an emotionally stunted father. Isabel has lots of caring family.
That may sound like plenty of fodder, but it only works if the lead characters demand our interest. Fetching as they undeniably are, Leo and Isabel just aren’t very interesting at least not in the sense of, “Do we want to spend the equivalent of a therapy session with them once a week?” They may not let go of each other, but they’re going to have a hard time holding onto viewers.
Series bows in its regular 10 p.m. Saturday slot Sept. 28.