Owing a more-than-passing debt to Chuck Barris (anybody remember "The Newlywed Game"?), "Here Come the Newlyweds" has a strong concept but suffers from poor execution and casting, including a vote-off element that generates absolutely zero suspense. The best moments are small (watching couples debate the "right amount" of sex per week) but few and far between. This ABC series also features a reality TV oddity -- regular direct-to-camera interviews with host Pat Bullard, which might indicate what dullards the seven couples turned out to be. In terms of continued viewing, lead-in, "Oprah's Big Give," better have long coattails.

Owing a more-than-passing debt to Chuck Barris (anybody remember “The Newlywed Game”?), “Here Come the Newlyweds” has a strong concept but suffers from poor execution and casting, including a vote-off element that generates absolutely zero suspense. The best moments are small (watching couples debate the “right amount” of sex per week) but few and far between. This ABC series also features a reality TV oddity — regular direct-to-camera interviews with host Pat Bullard, which might indicate what dullards the seven couples turned out to be. In terms of continued viewing, lead-in, “Oprah’s Big Give,” better have long coattails.

Inevitably, the series seeks to shoehorn the contestants into stereotyped categories, from the couple that’s been together since high school to the Barbie-and-Ken clones (an airline pilot and stewardess, no less) to the pair that’s each on their fourth marriage.

Structurally, the series resembles a bad wedding shower put on tape. At times the spouses just banter playfully — such as the strangest place they’ve had sex — which, depending on the duo, feels either stilted or overly scripted. Substitute “made whoopee,” and you can almost hear Bob Eubanks posing the question with a coy smirk.

Following modern TV conventions, the couples are also forced to engage in silly games and stunts, such as the blindfolded husbands trying to drive while the wives direct them. In the premiere, these segments are badly shot, don’t yield many fireworks and seem a little rushed to get to the voting. Unfortunately, because there’s no cause for acrimony (or for that matter signs of rapport) among the competing teams, who gets ousted feels arbitrary and yields no appreciable rooting interest.

The real problem, though, is that the couples don’t fight and only feebly bicker, which has always been the semi-sadistic point underlying such made-for-TV exercises. Perhaps realizing that, the producers compel the husbands to roast their wives in the second hour, yet even that fizzles, merely adding bad standup (along with fart and Henny Youngman-style jokes) to the mix.

All this might explain why Bullard’s role is accentuated, using the comic to redundantly explain what’s going on and hopefully breathe life into what’s otherwise a pretty moribund affair. The show’s one advantage is that it’s easy for home-viewing couples to vicariously substitute their own relationships into these situations, from the session with a sex therapist to whether a man can identify his wife’s kiss.

“Newlyweds” is at least getting on the air, unlike a prior Jay & Tony Show’s ABC production, “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” which was scrapped and is still collecting dust in the network’s vaults. This show doesn’t deserve quite that dire a fate, but it does invite thoughts about an act of infidelity that in TV terms is as destructive as the seven-year itch: The urge to reach for the remote control.

Here Come the Newlyweds

Series; ABC, Sun. March 2, 10 p.m.

Production

Produced by the Jay & Tony Show in association with Warner Horizon Television. Executive producers, Jay Blumenfield, Tony Marsh; co-executive producer, Alex Campbell; producer, Jeff Anderson; supervising producer, Shannon Keenan; show producer, Jeff Nucera; director, Tony Sacco

Crew

Production designer, Mercedes Younger; editor, Patrick Fraser; music, Jeff Lippencott, Mark T. Williams; casting, Roz Taylor-Jordan. 60 MIN.

Cast

Host: Pat Bullard.

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