Lodged somewhere between a smirk and a leer, first chapter of a six-episode summer series revels in the strained fictional experiences of how and when the younger characters have lost their virginity. Whipped up by creator-writer David Frankel, “Grapevine,” should snare unsophisticated early teenagers.
Format involves leading figures David (Jonathan Penner), his g.f. Susan (Lynn Clark), and David’s brother Thumper (Steven Eckholdt) and assorted characters letting loose supposedly smart thoughts on the episode’s subject.
First stanza’s target is Janice (Liz Vassey) the virginal, onetime overweight pal of Susan, and the vital question of whom she’ll bed down with: handsome mechanic Brian (Dean Cain) or middle-aged Henry (Stan Ivar), her former boss. David, Susan and Thumper let loose their so-called smart thoughts on the subject , as do others even less involved.
Frankel uses abrupt cuts and quick comments mixed with brief scenes to further the episode’s development. Chiming in on Janice’s progress are Brian’s parents (Janice’s folks are noticeably absent), a nutritionist (Ilse Earl), and Henry’s ex-wife.
Morality, of course, is never mentioned among this hip bunch, but there are sly references to condoms, to procreation (Thumper snidely observes of Janice’s deflowering, “To go boldly where no man has gone before!”), to innuendoes about fantasizing, to any number of things kiddies can squeal about.
The cheery cast beams through the gossiping and the sophomoric humor, but Vassey and Cain act as though they’d be much more at home in “Our Town.” As for the three principals, they need better material.