Jake in Progress

ABC's promos make no bones about hoping to establish this promising comedy as a male-centric "Sex and the City," and like the show itself, that's trying too hard. John Stamos, well supported by colorful characters, provides pleasant company as a celebrity PR exec afflicted with "grass is greener" complex -- forever worrying there's some woman better for him at the next cocktail party.

With:
Jake - John Stamos Adrian - Ian Gomez Patrick - Rick Hoffman Naomi - Wendie Malick

ABC’s promos make no bones about hoping to establish this promising comedy as a male-centric “Sex and the City,” and like the show itself, that’s trying too hard. John Stamos, well supported by colorful characters, provides pleasant company as a celebrity PR exec afflicted with “grass is greener” complex — forever worrying there’s some woman better for him at the next cocktail party. Show’s biggest problem is that ABC has no natural home for it, but at least it’s smart, stylish and sporadically funny, words seldom affixed to the net’s recent half-hours.

Not exactly a romantic, Stamos’ Jake is one of those good-looking chaps who woos and discards dazzling women, due to a combination of his shallowness and their insanity. His glamorous life is all about juggling needy clients and romance via cell phones and mile-a-minute chatter, with split screens capturing the frenetic pace.

Jake’s interplay with married college chum Adrian (Ian Gomez) — a sponge for whatever free tickets his pal can deliver — only scratches the surface of this hare-brained world. The immediate circle includes the ever-reliable Wendie Malick as Jake’s pregnant boss and Rick Hoffman as a sort-of magician/performance artist obsessed with David Blaine, who he’s convinced has stolen his shtick.

That character comes across a bit over the top, as does half-hour in which Jake reps a “Queer Eye”-type sensation dubbed the “Three Gaymigos.” It’s also worth pointing out that the title character frequently functions more like an agent than a flack, a bit of hairsplitting given the show’s other modest charms.

Since the premise was altered after the fact, the “Jake” pilot (written by twentysomething Austin Winsberg, who was 8 years old when Stamos first achieved heartthrob status on “Full House”) doesn’t put its best foot forward. Specifically, it’s been awkwardly reconstructed to turn Madchen Amick, initially positioned as a regular love interest, into a guest star.

Moreover, the best of five previewed episodes isn’t scheduled for either of the show’s first two nights. In that half-hour, Jake meets No. 47 on the “Super Sexy 66” list, as played by “Unscripted’s” Krista Allen, which makes one curious to see Nos. 1-46.

“She eats. She said ‘preclude,’ ” Jake tells Adrian, implying that those are adorable qualities in someone so gorgeous; limited motor skills are assumed. Of course, nothing lasts forever, especially when Jake meets her friend, ranked No. 3 on the same list.

Where “Jake” clocks in on Nielsen’s hit list could be another matter. Because the show doesn’t mesh with “According to Jim,” ABC will run back-to-back episodes Thursdays, trying to create a comedy hour opposite “Survivor” and “Joey.” Even facing reruns of the latter, establishing an ABC series that night remains a tall order, unless this Sunday’s preview in “Desperate Housewives’ ” neighborhood leads comedy-starved viewers to the trough.

Despite some promise, then, it’s unclear whether “Jake” will be able sustain that first blush of attraction, or if it’s destined to find that any fledgling comedy seeking to romance viewers is, these days, at best a work in progress.

Jake in Progress

ABC, Sun. March 13, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles and New York City by Brad Grey Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Austin Winsberg, Tim Doyle, Peter Traugott, Jeffrey Richman; supervising producer, Stephen Lloyd; producers, Michael Spiller, John Stamos, Jeff Morton; director, Spiller; writer, Winsberg.

Crew: Camera, Joe Pennella; production design, Randy Ser; editor, John Posell; music, Dan Licht; casting, Barbara Stordahl, Angela Terry. 30 MIN.

Cast: Jake - John Stamos Adrian - Ian Gomez Patrick - Rick Hoffman Naomi - Wendie Malick

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