October 24, 2005 12:00 PM

ABC (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET)

The career trajectory of Freddie Prinze Jr. has been the soft, low lob of a tennis ball with a smiley face. If s not unfair to observe that in his dozen or so movies, his greatest risk as an actor was to go blond for Scooby Doo and its sequel. Yet Prinze, who has a gentle, genial boy-next-door personality, seems no less talented than plenty of other stars. Maybe he just needs to luck into the right, outta-the-blue role. I never really respected Rob Lowe until he unveiled his Robert Wagner impersonation in the Austin Powers movies.

Prinze’s first sitcom is another soft, low lob. Inspired by his childhood growing up surrounded by women after the 1977 death of his father, actor Freddie Prinze, the show casts him as a celebrated Chicago chef sharing his apartment with a divorced sister and her daughter, a widowed sister-in-law (who’s a drinker) and a Puerto Rican grandmother who shares her sarcastic pearls of wisdom in Spanish. (All her dialogue is subtitled—a nice little innovation.) These women drift in and out, cajoling and hectoring Prinze like phantoms of memory in one of those old Fellini movies. Meanwhile, he’s been given a best buddy next door: Beverly Hills, 90210‘s Brian Austin Green. Why not just give him a pet shark? As an actor Green is always more “on” than Prinze, and he gobbles up their scenes, Maybe Prinze should just clear the soundstage of all these people, stand there alone and start over. Be brave, Freddie!


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