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Miss Match

Having months ago been anointed the comeback kid of the 2003 fall season, Alicia Silverstone has a lot riding on her shoulders with "Miss Match." It's a shame that she's stuck with such wafer-thin material here, because Silverstone is undoubtedly a fun, perky presence on the small screen.

With:
Kate Fox - Alicia Silverstone Jerrold Fox - Ryan O'Neal Nick Paine - James Roday Michael Mendelsohn - David Conrad Victoria - Lake Bell

Having months ago been anointed the comeback kid of the 2003 fall season, Alicia Silverstone has a lot riding on her shoulders with “Miss Match.” It’s a shame that she’s stuck with such wafer-thin material here, because Silverstone is undoubtedly a fun, perky presence on the small screen. But the conceit of “Miss Match” — divorce attorney by day, matchmaker by night — is so slight that the premise seems old by the end of the pilot. It would make a charming bonbon of a made-for, but extending the storyline over numerous episodes seems redundant.

Playing a woman not unlike a grounded, post-collegiate version of her Cher Horowitz in “Clueless,” Silverstone is Kate Fox, a junior associate at her father’s law firm. Seeking to create a “karmic balance” after a day of bickering over prenups and custody rights, she earns cash on the side by hanging out at trendy watering holes trying to get lonelyhearts to be lovey-dovey. And, just like “Clueless,” she spends more time as a yenta than focusing on her own love life, despite the hovering of a hunky architect (David Conrad).

If it sounds almost unbearably cute, that’s because it is. Silverstone has adopted a number of patented Meg Ryan facial ticks to play the part, including the exasperated eye-roll and faux aghast jaw-drop. It’s to her credit that it comes off more sparkly than cloying. Her co-stars, including Ryan O’Neal as her father and James Roday as her co-worker, counteract all the adorableness by being respectively brusque and annoying.

Like Darren Star’s far racier “Sex and the City,” Kate’s haphazard setups (her high school nemesis with a vet? Sure, why not? He has a pulse) prove that bad dates are a dime a dozen. When her matches don’t work, it’s because one party is dysfunctional: a self-involved brat or being rude to the waitstaff or prone to public crying. Due to its wispy premise, show threatens to turn into not much more than a disaster-of-the-week dating show. Reality TV can and does play this angle much better.

The legal scenes bog down the pace and require implausible plot twists to resolve. If series takes off among the too-young-to-drive, too-old-to-go-out crowd on Friday nights, look for Kate to spend less time in the law office and more time as a chirpy barfly in romantic L.A. locations.

Of interest to fashionistas: Silverstone is an ardent animal activist who refuses to wear anything made out of wool, silk or leather. It’s interesting to see how costume designer Roberta Haze works around these requirements — a metal briefcase, for instance — while still adhering to the Darren Star-dressed-to-the-nines mandate.

Popular on Variety

Miss Match

NBC, Fri. Sept. 26, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Imagine Television and Darren Star Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox TV. Executive producers, Darren Star, Jeff Rake, Brian Grazer, David Nevins; co-executive producer, Jed Seidel; producer, Gareth Davies; editors, Kevin Krasney (pilot), Peter Basinkski, John Axness; director, Star (pilot); writers, Rake, Star, Jed Seidel, David Schulner, Marc Silverstein, Abby Cohn, Sherri Cooper, Robin Schiff, Colleen McGuinness.

Crew: Camera, Steven Fierberg (pilot), Ron Garcia; music, Howard Par; casting, Molly Lopata. 60 MIN.

Cast: Kate Fox - Alicia Silverstone Jerrold Fox - Ryan O'Neal Nick Paine - James Roday Michael Mendelsohn - David Conrad Victoria - Lake Bell

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