September 06, 1999 12:00 PM

FOX (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

No use complaining anymore about TV shows referring to other TV shows. Nearly all of them do it, but must this “nontraditional family series” (FOX’s description) be so competitive about it? Speaking directly to the audience in the Sept. 8 premiere, the 17-year-old daughter (Anne Hathaway) sneers at the WB’s Dawson’s Creek (“I wouldn’t be caught dead watching it”) and 7th Heaven (for those who “want everything tied up in a bow”). As the media-wise remarks indicate, this comedy-drama makes a point of placing itself in the television world, not the real world. The very title can be viewed as a joke and a fairly intelligent one at that.

But to be clever is not always to be likable. Though the grandmother (Christina Pickles) and the 15-year-old boy (Jesse Eisenberg) aren’t hard to take, Hathaway’s character suffers from excess self-esteem, and the 16-year-old brother (Eric Christian Olsen) is aptly described as a “sadistic moron.” As for the busy, bickering parents (Jon Tenney and Debrah Farentino), they’re not real enough when they get serious. “I miss you; I miss MS,” the wife says in a plea for intimacy. She must’ve heard that line on TV.

Bottom Line: Smart but off-putting

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