TV love triangles are a lot like the Bermuda triangle — it’s dangerous territory and somebody usually gets lost. If “Jack & Jill” hopes to make it beyond midseason, creator, writer and producer Randi Mayem Singer (“Mrs. Doubtfire”) is going to have to expand beyond this contrived love story. Singer tries to play both sides of the fence by introducing us to three presumably likable characters caught up in that in-between stage of post-collegiate real-world initiation and serious adult-oriented commitment. Although she does a decent job of arguing the case that there’s more than one love for every person, it’s a story with a limited shelf life, particularly in a timeslot that includes the CBS and NBC Sunday movie franchises and Fox’s “X-Files.”
The oh-so-clever twist in this one-hour romantic comedy is that Amanda Peet (“She’s the One”) is Jack (for Jacqueline) and Ivan Sergei (“The Opposite of Sex”) is Jill as in David Jillefsky. The tired setup, reminiscent of many a pilot, begins with Jack, a stilted bride, dumping her wedding gown in the trash as she makes her way for the big city. Coddled by family and friends for most of her life, Jack hopes to claim her independence by moving in with her old high school friend Audrey (Jamie Pressly).
Jack briefly encounters Jill in the hallway of his apartment building, causing Jill to reconsider his decision to move in with his intelligent and beautiful girlfriend Elise (Sarah Paulson). As luck would have it, Jack has just gotten an internship at the newsroom where Elise works and the two women have become fast friends.
What seems like an impossibly awkward situation resolves itself a little too neatly by the end of the first episode. Everybody here is so earnest in their search for themselves, yet no one seems even remotely mature enough for a serious relationship. Jill still consults his buddies before making major decisions; Jack is a co-dependent tempted by fat checks from Daddy, and Elise, for all her intellect, is just plain oblivious.
As Jill, Sergei is far too guilt-ridden by his dilemma and relies on puppy-dog muggings to bring a quick resolution to any conflicts between his old girlfriend and possible future girlfriend. Peet, a last-minute replacement for the role of Jack, adds a feisty quality to the role — perhaps a little too feisty to make her friendship with Elise believable.
A ray of dramatic hope lies with the secondary perfs, especially Justin Kirk as the med student with an aversion to cadavers and Pressly as Audrey, Jack’s high school chum and roommate. This quirky pair offer a voice of reason and a promise of relief from the dreadfully well-meaning leads.
Although aimed at a slightly older audience, “Jack & Jill’s” heavily stylized look is in keeping with the WB’s overall younger demos. Director Michael Lehmann has cultivated a realistic urban look, accentuated by David Ekstrom’s crisp editing and Roxanne Lippel’s snappy soundtrack. Tech credits are top-notch.