In one of those bad accidents of timing, “Pepper Dennis'” attempts to create hourlong whimsy mostly feel like “Pepper’s Anatomy,” with Rebecca Romijn as a hard-charging local TV reporter who engages in an ill-fated bar fling with what turns out to be the station’s new star — her very own Anchor McDreamy. Much like the net’s “Related,” series isn’t terrible but doesn’t pack much of a comedic wallop and, as a practical matter, has little time to distinguish itself before the WB and UPN blend into the new CW.
Strictly in terms of lad-mag appeal, this might be the finest collection of chiseled flesh this side of “Las Vegas,” though it’s questionable how much that will contribute to retaining the “Gilmore Girls” audience. Nor does it say much for the show’s creativity index that the second episode involves Pepper dressing up like a prostitute to infiltrate a pandering poker club. Geez, and it’s not even sweeps yet.
Although she idolizes Walter Cronkite (for traditional WB viewers, he’s someone your grandparents used to watch), Pepper tends to chase small fry in her role as a Chicago investigative reporter, from greedy local officials to an unlicensed daycare operation.
Still, Pepper’s dreams of anchor-hood falter when it turns out her one-night stand, Charlie (Josh Hopkins), is WEIE’s newly imported anchor, leaving her conflicted by pangs of longing and jealousy.
Things are equally unsettled at home, after sister Kathy (Brooke Burns) takes one of Pepper’s off-hand comments as inspiration to leave her husband, arriving at Pepper’s doorstep in search of a place to stay. In Kathy, the series has its most human character, a woman with few ambitions beyond being the perfect wife who now faces the daunting prospect of establishing a life for herself.
Romijn definitely possesses a certain charisma, and she not only looks great wet but can run surprisingly well in high heels.
Nevertheless, the whole star-crossed office romance conundrum is so well-worn as to have tire treads on it, and while Hopkins is easy enough on the eyes the passion between them isn’t particularly convincing — just as the local news setting yields only the most obvious asides, such as the gruff station manager (Brett Cullen) telling Pepper, “We terrify parents, it’s ratings gold.”
Some of the dialogue, too, sounds a trifle harsh or misdirected. Kathy, for example, complains that her husband “took six years to find my clitoris” (remember when they had to dance around that word on “Seinfeld?”), while a male co-worker is told during a sexual-harassment coaching session to “put your loofah away, Bill O’Reilly.” Not to stir up trouble, but inasmuch as 20th Century Fox Television produces the show, expect a phone call to Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes … right about now.
Billed as a one-hour comedy, the series is created by Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, whose Fox entry “Wonderfalls” sought to achieve a similar tone but was rapidly swept away. At least Pepper should be prepared should she face the same fate, knowing how hard it is to unearth ratings gold.