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Hooking Up

Marshalling ABC News and the producers of the "24/7" documentary series to lay bare the world of Internet dating is surely its own form of pandering, but the result should resonate with women in particular as a kind of real-life "Sex and the City."

Marshalling ABC News and the producers of the “24/7” documentary series to lay bare the world of Internet dating is surely its own form of pandering, but the result should resonate with women in particular as a kind of real-life “Sex and the City.” Although the program fragments its lens among too many singles, thus making it harder to track the dozen or so “characters,” the vagaries of kissing toads in pursuit of Prince Charming is the kind of identifiable material that could score as a summer fill-in.

Admittedly, the premise met with initial skepticism here, since there’s no activity more self-conscious and likely to be influenced by a camera crew’s intrusive presence than a first date. At times, it does feel as if the women and their suitors pose and posture, their encounters and direct-to-camera confessions coming across as stilted and staged.

That said, the millions surfing various dating sites — or anyone who’s ever been on a blind date — will doubtless recognize the plaintive lament that a guy “looks nothing like his photograph” (which, in one instance, was actually taken during the first Bush administration), along with the semipathetic desperation of a woman who insists she’s seeking a husband before musing that perhaps if she sleeps with guy, “I’ll get to the real him.”

Mostly in their 20s and 30s, the women come from disparate backgrounds, and in some cases it’s difficult not to wince at the manner in which the camera exploits their fragility. Take Maryam, 29, who appears to be getting plastered on her dates; or Cynthia, 34, a Fran Drescher sound-alike who follows her more disappointing encounters by phoning up a friend for a “booty call.”

Spreading the pool among so many women leeches momentum from any of these individual stories. Just when one participant becomes interesting, we’re off to follow or meet another. The editing, moreover, at times excludes vital information, leaving viewers to ponder why Amy’s sister and brother-in-law, for example, took such a disliking to her latest beau, beyond what little we’ve seen.

Still, “Hooking Up” allows viewers to drape their own baggage over the skeleton, in the same way women debated which of the “Sex and the City” quartet they most resembled. So while it’s milieu proves less dramatically compelling than exec producer Terence Wrong’s “Hopkins 24/7” and “NYPD 24/7,” set inside a hospital and police dept., respectively, it should benefit from its universal theme — fraught as the quest for romance (or even just sex) is with emotional peril, exuberance and irrationality.

Granted, one can argue whether this is really the best use of a news division’s resources, but there’s nothing inappropriate about paying a few bills by delving into lighter topics provided that such endeavors don’t come at the expense, as they often do, of more serious reporting.

In the broadest sense, then, score one for Mr. Wrong, if only for finding a means to tap into the storybook allure of the search for Mr. Right.

Hooking Up

ABC, Thurs. July 14, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New York by ABC News. Executive producer, Terence Wrong; senior executive producer, Rudy Bednar; producers, Brad Hebert, Bryan Taylor; special segment producer, Ralph Avellino.

Crew: Supervising editor, Joe Beshenkovsky. Running Time: 60 MIN.

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