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As If

"As If" breaks a U.S. TV mold by going with an untested recipe that takes the random acts of partying, sex and friendship from the film "Go" and blends it with a few episodes of "Saved by the Bell: The College Years."

With:
Sooz - Emily Corrie
Alex - Robin Dunne
Rob - Chris Engen
Jamie - Derek Hughes
Sasha - Tracie Thoms
Nicki - Adrienne Wilkinson

“As If” breaks a U.S. TV mold by going with an untested recipe that takes the random acts of partying, sex and friendship from the film “Go” and blends it with a few episodes of “Saved by the Bell: The College Years.” “As If” was a trite and annoying phrase popular with teens a half-dozen years ago, and this attempt to import a Brit format and make it American is hard to swallow. Everything about it is unfocused, from the characters’ histories to what brought them together to who UPN thinks is interested in watching this.

Judging from the shows being pilfered from across the Atlantic, it seems Brits auds enjoy watching 1) people abandoned in unpopulated areas become malnourished and then strategize on how to win a fortune, 2) gay people who go to clubs and have sex and 3) straight men and women who go to clubs and have sex.

“As If” appears to have been rushed through development and production, as whatever Britishness it might have possessed is gone. The target audience for this show is probably out cavorting the way these characters are, leaving UPN an audience of youngsters (this is not a show for adults). It can be sold as edgy — the fashions, the libidos, the electronic dance music — should UPN go that route in its marketing, but its lack of substance eventually will prove its curse.

This sextet of clubbers — it’s unclear who has a job and who’s in school in the pilot — engage in the usual dance-club denizen dialogue: Where’s the next party and what do I have to do to get him/her to have sex with me? Jamie (Derek Hughes) has his eye on Nicki (Adrienne Wilkinson), who, in turn, is interested in a hunk (Alex Nesic as Tino) at the club. She uses Jamie to attract the hunk, takes an elevator ride with him in the club for a quickie and gets burned — their one-time sex-capade is the beginning and end of their relationship and, as if UPN feels some moralizing should accompany these characters’ behavior, she immediately feels dirty and ashamed. As an audience, we feel nothing, even as she cries her mascara into a Kiss facial with Sooz (Emily Corrie) attempting to soothe her pain.

Corrie played the oh-so-alternative (you know, multihued hair, tattoos, piercings) Sooz in the Brit version as well, and the experience helps — there’s a sense that the actor has had time to live with the character and turn it into something that’s more than an extension of her own personality. Yet she’s such an outsider — the target of barbs and observations — that she knows less about life and love than the others in this contrived social circle of superficial partyers.

When Rob (Chris Engen) chooses to hang out drinking — in a surprisingly uncrowded club — and fails to show up for Sasha’s (Tracie Thoms) deejaying contest, it’s hardly a surprise; like so many other shows dealing with young adults, the message consistently sent out is that women can’t identify a nice guy and can’t avoid the self-involved ones. His penance: He has to crash at Jamie’s place and ends up vomiting into a bucket.

Witold Stok’s filmed and taped images are blended together like a mixtape, a little jarring here and there, nice and smooth elsewhere thanks to solid editing from Fiona Colbeck. It’s unclear how much of Brian Grant’s direction was dictated by the Brit originals, but he does an admirable job as this drama moves between its living and partying locales.

As If

Series; UPN; Tues. March 5; 9 p.m.

Production: Taped and filmed in Los Angeles by Carnival Films in association with Columbia TriStar Television, based on episodes of the U.K. series written by Amanda Coe and Jane English. Executive producers, Brian Eastman, Julian Murphy, Jonathan Collier; producers, Dan Kaplow, Brian Grant, Johnny Kapps; director, Grant; teleplay, Collier.

Crew: Director of photography, Witold Stok; production designer, Dan Butts; editor, Fiona Colbeck; casting, Mark Tillman, Mondy Johnson-Plate. 30 MIN.

Cast: Sooz - Emily Corrie
Alex - Robin Dunne
Rob - Chris Engen
Jamie - Derek Hughes
Sasha - Tracie Thoms
Nicki - Adrienne Wilkinson

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