'America's Next Top Model'

This partly improved TBS comedy is set in a grocery store, which makes it even more conspicuous that the product is so stale. "10 Items or Less" labors too hard at being clever and occasionally teeters into shrill mode where a half-dozen characters are all yelling at each other simultaneously.

This partly improved TBS comedy is set in a grocery store, which makes it even more conspicuous that the product is so stale. Coming on the tail end of a slew of improvicoms, “10 Items or Less” labors too hard at being clever and occasionally teeters into shrill mode where a half-dozen characters are all yelling at each other simultaneously. The Turner-backed net is making a concerted push into series, but based on an initial sampling, this is the least appealing new item on its shelves.

Co-creator John Lehr comes from an improv background and brings a sprightly, Ellen DeGeneres-type persona to the role of Leslie Pool, the heir to a local Ohio grocery store, Greens & Grains, which he runs with tone-deaf sincerity. Surrounded by a posse of eccentric employees, he’s nearly oblivious to threats in the first hour leveled by a former classmate (“Lovespring International’s” Jennifer Elise Cox) who represents Super Value Mart, a Wal-Mart-like chain determined to either acquire or destroy him.

Not surprisingly, the staff harbors various ambitions that all seem plucked out of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, from the cashier (Christopher Liam Moore) who yearns to be a professional ice dancer to the butcher (Chris Payne Gilbert) with plans to join the stock-car circuit.

Even at its best (translation: “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), improv can be a hit-and-mostly-miss proposition, and the backdrop and characters here aren’t distinct enough to prevent a rapid descent into the most banal kind of jokes, among them: Who had sex with whom at a company picnic. Nor does it help that Lehr’s dense, eager-to-please doofus is so bland and boring, contributing to an atmosphere that’s inoffensive but not particularly interesting.

Every cable net (and a few broadcasters) has seemingly felt compelled to take a whack at its own comedy with some improv element, and inasmuch as “10 Items” kicks off a new latenight block, the risks are relatively low. Nevertheless, after a stroll through this wacky market, there ought to be a race to the checkout line.

10 Items or Less

TBS, Mon. Nov. 27, 11 P.M.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Sony Pictures Television. Executive producers, Robert Hickey, Nancy Hower, John Lehr; producer, Barbara Stoll; segment producer, Sam Feirstein; director, Hower; writers, Hickey, Hower, Lehr.

Crew

Camera, Lawrence Schweich; editor, Marcelo Sansevieri; music, Steven Argila; production designer, Dan Butts; casting, Tim Payne. Running Time: 30 MIN.

Cast

Leslie Pool - John Lehr Carl - Robert Clendenin Buck - Greg Davis Jr. Todd - Chris Payne Gilbert Ingrid - Kirsten Gronfield Richard - Christopher Liam Moore Yolanda - Roberta Valderrama
With: Jennifer Elise Cox
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