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Desire; Fashion House

As the jilted bride at the UPN-WB marriage, it's appropriate MyNetworkTV is relying on soap operas to mend its broken heart, though the fledgling net's Spanish-style <I>telenovelas</I> initially look like a business model in search of programming.

This review was updated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006.

As the jilted bride at the UPN-WB marriage, it’s appropriate MyNetworkTV is relying on soap operas to mend its broken heart, though the fledgling net’s Spanish-style telenovelas initially look like a business model in search of programming. Passable production values, naughtiness about as salty as an issue of Maxim and some pretty stiff acting provide modest camp allure, but it’s hard to imagine either new series qualifying as a so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure. And it’s unclear what kind of audience (Young women? Doubtful; Horny guys? There’s raunchier stuff available) will be inspired to tune in.

Indeed, the self-contained serials that provide the basis for this fare skew toward older women, as do daytime soaps, which doesn’t dovetail with the profile of the Fox station group, MyNetwork’s cornerstone.

Both shows are slated to run every weeknight for 13 weeks, plus a weekend recap show. And each features lots of pouty femme fatales, as well as a strange gimmick of flashing back to scenes even within that night’s installment, ostensibly as a method of padding out the episodes.

Somewhat more ambitious but equally hackneyed, “Desire” focuses on two brothers, Louis (Nat Haden) and Alex (Zack Silva), who open a restaurant in New Jersey, only to run afoul of a local mobster when ladies man Louis is caught bedding his daughter. An explosion later and they’re off with mom to California, in part because a soap set in Bayonne would rightfully be titled “Ennui.”

The boys quickly land jobs at an upscale restaurant, where both fall for the owner’s daughter, Andrea (Michelle Belegrin), who has mastered the art of walking in slow motion. Andrea is dating the manager, George (Tony Dunster), a gold-digger with bills to pay, and she wants to dump him. Unfortunately, George is prodded along by his cleavage-heaving sister (“CSI: Miami’s” Sofia Milos, “Desire’s” biggest name), who isn’t around much in the first two episodes, which spares the viewer from wondering why she and her brother have such different accents.

“Fashion House,” meanwhile, is little more than a mix of “Melrose Place” and its short-lived spinoff “Models Inc.” Bo Derek plays a fashion matriarch, whose son Luke (Taylor Kinney) is smitten by Michelle (Natalie Martinez), an aspiring designer and frustrated wife.

Then again, Michelle’s husband, Lance (Mike Begovich), is having sex with assistant Gloria (Donna Feldman), who purrs, “I need you tonight, and I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

All told, these programs are populated by beautiful people and, thanks to all the musical montages, have less scripted dialogue than “America’s Next Top Model.” There is also plenty of conspicuous product placement for cosmetics in “Fashion House,” which bodes well for the next serial, “Fast Food Vixens.”

Frankly, such lightweight fare might cut it if nothing else was on, and the serialized format doubtless makes sense from a cost perspective as a low-cost way to plug a two-hour hole. Nevertheless, they seem ill-equipped to compete in a 100-channel universe, given the modest joys of hearing Derek snap testily at an employee, “When in doubt, say nothing,” or the prospect of Morgan Fairchild catting up the airwaves again as one of her rivals.

MyNetworkTV was a rapid response to the quandary the Fox-owned station group faced due to UPN’s dissolution, but despite its lineup of 167 TV stations, the enterprise comes across as a character from one of its soaps — namely, the selfish lover. Because while these back-to-back hours might fill the stations’ needs, it’s not clear they were thinking much about the needs and desires of their potential audience.

Desire; Fashion House

MyNetworkTV, Tues. Sept. 5, 8 p.m.; Tues. Sept. 5, 9 p.m.

  • Production: <B>Desire:</B> Filmed in San Diego by a subsidiary of Twentieth Television. Executive producer, Stu Segall; director, Alex Wright; writer, David Loggeshall.<br><B>Fashion House: </B>Filmed in San Diego by a subsidiary of Twentieth Television. Executive producer, Stu Segall; directors, Jeremy Stanford, James Slocum, W.D. Hogan, Alex Hennech; writer, Colet Abedi.
  • Crew: <B>Desire:</B> Camera, Tom Jewitt; editor, Andrew Schrader; music, We 3 Kings; production designer, Gershon Ginsburg; casting, Jean Scoccimarro, Robin Nassif, Patrick Baca. Running Time: 60 MIN.<br><B>Fashion House: </B>Camera, Tom Jewitt; editor, Barry Murphy; music, Chester White, We 3 Kings; production designer, Gershon Ginsburg; casting, Jean Scoccimarro, Robin Nassif, Patrick Baca, Derek Marquardt. Running Time: 60 MIN.
  • Cast: <B>Desire:</B> Andrea - Michelle Belegrin Alex - Zack Silva Louis - Nate Haden Suzy - Vivian Gray George - Tony Dunster Victoria - Sofia Milos Joey Gamarra - Chris DeRose Maria Gianni - Bo Derek<br><B>Fashion House: </B> Sophia Blakely - Morgan Fairchild Michelle Miller - Natalie Martinez Lance - Mike Begovich Luke Gianni - Taylor Kinney Nikki Clark - Nicole Pulliam Gloria - Donna Feldman