Add to TV’s long roster of orphaned kids this dramatic spin on “Full (Beach) House,” in which three young Kansans migrate to the oceanfront California digs of their single aunt. Although clearly designed to dish out fun in the sun with splashes of coming-of-age pathos over the long haul, the premiere leans toward the morose, with the adults’ cluelessness matched only by the kids’ petulance and stupidity. Still, in typical Aaron Spelling fashion at least everybody looks great, and that worked for “The OC,” didn’t it?
Lori Loughlin (a “Full House” alumna, who shares “created by” credit with producer Stephen Tolkin) plays Ava, the attractive fashion designer who platonically shares a beachhouse with two guys and a gal before inheriting these tadpoles out of water. Her sister and brother-in-law die nobly trying to stop the levee from flooding, and while sis might have once mentioned “over a lot of pina coladas” taking the kids, clearly, Ava never considered the possibility.
So Ava and pals suddenly find themselves with a 16-year-old boy (Jesse McCartney), 13-year-old girl (Kay Panabaker) and 8-year-old moppet (Nicholas J. Benson) under their roof. Not surprisingly, the new arrivals yield some awkward moments — whether it’s bumping into Ava exiting the shower or a beach hottie knocking on the wrong door in the middle of the night.
Ava’s boyfriend-turned-just-roommate Johnny (“As the World Turns” stud Shawn Christian), surf shop proprietor Jay (Aussie soap stud Ryan Kwanten) and friend-former co-worker Susannah (Merrin Dungey, last seen sparring with Jennifer Garner on “Alias”) want to help, but hey, they’re new to this stuff.
It doesn’t help, either, that the producers don’t hold back many crises for episode four. In the opener alone, the oldest boy develops a hopeless crush on his surfing instructor (crush-worthy Taylor Cole), the girl becomes so hostile her expressions resemble Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” and the youngest decides he wants to die in order to reunite with mom and dad.
There are other lapses in Tolkin’s script, such as any mention of an insurance policy to help raise the little whippersnappers and ease Ava’s career anxiety. In a bit of bad timing, she quit her job (the boss couldn’t keep his hands off her, and honestly, who could?) just before the big accident.
Loughlin is an endearing presence, the other adults are likable enough and the setting froths over with pure sandy escapism. Unfortunately, the premise feels so hackneyed — and the ending so rushed and tidy — it’s hard to become invested in what transpires.
Nor does the dialogue help, such as when Ava wonders what she can do to guide the kids through this ordeal. “It’s the ‘F’ word, Ava: faith,” Johnny tells her, with the kind of square-jawed earnestness that ought to be stenciled on a greeting card.
Actually, I can think of a few others, but out of respect to the living and dead, let’s go with “flimsy” and leave it at that.