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TV Series Review

What do you do when life seems to have passed you by? What if your best days are behind you? What happens when you're plagued by two decades of regret and memories of things you did ... or failed to do?

Those are heavy questions. Depressing questions. But nonetheless real questions that people without hope face every day. They're not, however, questions you would expect to find in the midst of a Monday night comedy lineup on CBS. Yet with the addition of the new sitcom The Class, the network has seemingly dedicated the 8 o'clock hour to lost and lonely singles needing both laughs and empathy. Last year it introduced viewers to How I Met Your Mother, squeezing poignant moments about finding "the one" amid a barrage of crude cracks. In copycat fashion, this tale of former grade-school classmates slides in a serious thought or two before returning to the usual fare.

The group is reunited when Ethan Haas (Jason Ritter) throws a surprise party for his fiancée to mark the 20th anniversary of when they first met. Recreating the scene, he manages to gather almost all the members of Mrs. Klinger's third-grade class, Mrs. Klinger herself and even the school cafeteria cook who dished out tater tots back in 1986.

But sweet sentiments quickly sour when Ethan is publicly dumped, leaving him to wallow in front of an assortment of over-the-top cardboard characters. Duncan still lives at home with his mom and regrets ever breaking up with high school sweetheart Nicole, who has become the trophy wife of a retired NFL legend. Lina is a free spirit who has just caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman and immediately connects with Richie, a lonesome loser once again down on his luck. Holly is a tightly wound blonde determined to prove how "happy" she is to ex-boyfriend Kyle, who has since decided that he's homosexual. And on and on ...

The large ensemble certainly provides room to expand the show's story line. It also leaves plenty of opportunity for more questionable content. The Class has already covered lots of material you'd never find in a sex-ed class, from penis jokes to gay quips and explicit dialogue (Holly insists on knowing the details of Kyle's first same-sex experience). Richie's suicidal tendencies are played for laughs. And conveniently, Kyle and his Latin lover look to be the only happy members of the entire nostalgic bunch.

Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said it well: "Hang out for a while ... and you may quickly realize why you didn't stay in touch with most of your fellow third-graders. People like these suck the life out of you." CBS' new kid on the sitcom block wants to give angst-ridden twentysomethings a cathartic laugh, but The Class deserves a time-out for failing its subjects.

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 18, 24, 2006

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Marcus Yoars

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