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Union Square

"Union Square," where pathetic cultural stereotypes converge to speak loudly and carry a big shtick. Situated in a prime NBC spot between "Friends" and "Seinfeld," sitcom will no doubt bring in a sizable clientele despite having all the wit and charm of a pepper-spray canister. And this, incidentally, is the reshot, recast, brand new, presumably vastly improved pilot. It's chilling to ponder how awful the first one must have been. The new center of this cloying universe is Constance Marie (in the character of Gabriella Diaz). She is an aspiring actress and a Latina with a capital L. She arrives in Manhattan from San Antonio in the pilot looking to make her immediate mark on Broadway. Instead, during an audition, she vomits on Neil Simon. Hey, ya know, you have to make your mark any way you can.

Surrounding the gagging Gaby are a virtual who’s who of dysfunctional malcontents. They include the struggling playwright Michael (Michael Landes); the condescending, dreadlocked diner owner Vince (Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter); the airheaded waiter Albie (Jonathan Slavin); the divorcing, smoke-deprived, wisecracking real estate agent Suzanne (Harriet Sansom Harris); sarcastic waitress and rock-star-in-waiting Carrie (Christine Marie Burke); and the beefcake-y, transparent flirt of a short-order cook, Jack (Jim Pirri).

Opening script by writers and executive producers Fred Barron and Marco Pennette blends contrived situations with strained dialogue. For instance, the sexy Gaby befriends Michael, who notices none of Gaby’s curves but offers to let her stay at his place, anyway. Vince grumbles about everything. Albie screws up all the orders. Carrie fires odd one-liners at all of her customers. Jack flexes his muscles a lot and hits on the womenfolk. And Suzanne constantly craves cigarettes.

Anybody who is not yet doubling over in laughter probably won’t while watching “Union Square,” either. Harris as the biting Suzanne at least has decent comic timing and fires off her lines with flair. The rest of the cast basically yells a lot, as if crying out for attention. It’s what laborious comedies do when their dialogue doesn’t register at a lower decibel level.

Not even designated master pilot director James Burrows can do much with this material other than make it feel superficially slick.

“Union Square” is like “Friends” on decaf — grumpy, disconnected, tired. The snore you hear may be your own.

Union Square

NBC, Thurs. Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m.

  • Production: Taped in Studio City by Barron Pennette Prods. and Three Sisters Entertainment in association with NBC. Executive producers, Fred Barron, Marco Pennette; co-executive producers, Michael B. Kaplan, Gary Murphy, Neil Thompson; producer, Tim Berry; associate producer, Marijane Miller; consulting producers, G.M. McGrath, Donald Todd; writers, Pennette, Barron; director, James Burrows;
  • Crew: director of photography, Richard A. Brown; production designer, Dan Maltese; editor, Brent Carpenter; music, Bruce Miller; casting, Gilda Stratton. 30 MIN.
  • Cast: Cast: Constance Marie, Michael Landes, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jim Pirri, Jonathan Slavin, Christine Marie Burke, Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter.
  • Music By: