Born from the ashes of "The Wedding Album" -- a pilot that deserved to be torched -- comes this Phoenix bearing David E. Kelley's stamp, which more closely resembles the short-lived "Girls Club" and the most lightweight aspects of "Ally McBeal" than the producer's best stuff.

Born from the ashes of “The Wedding Album” — a pilot that deserved to be torched — comes this Phoenix bearing David E. Kelley’s stamp, which more closely resembles the short-lived “Girls Club” and the most lightweight aspects of “Ally McBeal” than the producer’s best stuff. The three Bell sisters run a wedding business — thus the punny title — but even with an attractive cast and tart moments, the whole remains less than the sum of its parts. Like the pilot’s runaway bride, Kelley’s heart doesn’t initially seem to be in it, but Fox is still toasting the series with a royal post-“American Idol” launch.

Having inherited the business from their divorced parents, the Bell gals conveniently find themselves in three different stages of romance. Level-headed Annie (KaDee Strickland) is still in a mutually pining relationship for her former beau, wedding photographer David (Michael Landes), while chilly Jane (Teri Polo) is married, but not very happily, to the business’ starched chief operating officer (Benjamin King). Fortunately, there’s party-gal Sammy (Sarah Jones) to be single and slutty, to the point where when she beds a bridal party member, one sis asks apprehensively if it was the groom.

“Don’t be afraid to feel,” Jane tells Annie about her arrested state of dating development, and in truth, the Bells exhibit a surprisingly cynical streak about love and romance for a show so heavily skewed to women that deals with weddings. Fortunately, Kelley peppers the proceedings with characteristically offbeat humor, from a mother-of-the-bride (a cameo by Delta Burke) willing to bribe a minister to get Jesus’ name into a mixed-religion ceremony to the frustrated wedding singer (Chris Williams) having his band subtly score an apology.

Although mostly uninspired, there are embers of potential here — perhaps foremost in the talented Polo, who flirts with the chef and threatens to punch out a big lug who comes onto her. Landes, too, has a nice comic touch, even if the David-Annie relationship feels tired almost before the premiere reaches its first commercial break.

Having new weddings each week, theoretically, will be fertile ground for drama, but it removes Kelley from his comfort zone in the legal world, which he has mined so successfully. The assumption, moreover, that women will tune in a wedding-related show has already suffered a setback this season with ABC’s tepid laffer “Big Day,” which quickly became yesterday’s news.

Following the post-“Idol” preview, the series settles on Fridays, a night where Fox has seemingly been dormant since “The X-Files” left. Unless the audience is quickly hooked, in other words, there’s room to fear that the next set of bells that toll for the Bell sisters are less likely to commemorate a wedding than a funeral.

The Wedding Bells

Fox, Wed. March 7, 9 P.M.


Filmed in Los Angeles by David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Kelley, Jason Katims, Jonathan Pontell; director, Jon Amiel; writers, Kelley, Katims; story by Katims, Kelley.


Running time: 60 MIN.


Annie Bell - KaDee Strickland Jane Bell - Teri Polo Sammy Bell - Sarah Jones David Conlon - Michael Landes Russell Hawkins - Benjamin King Ralph Snow - Chris Williams Amanda Pontell - Missi Pyle
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