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TV Series Review

As is the case with so many successful teen stars, Amanda Bynes plays both the movie and TV game, if for no other reason than to keep her youthful profile in front of as many people as possible. Her WB sitcom, What I Like About You (returning this fall on Thursday nights), showcases everything that has made her famous. Her cute clumsiness. Her winning, slightly goofy personality. And her uncanny ability to deliver “the big lines.”

Bynes’ character, 16-year-old Holly Tyler, lives with her older sister, Val, in a rent-controlled New York City apartment. With Dad working in Japan, and school rarely intruding on her social life, she has lots of time to hang out. Holly isn’t just partying and having fun, though. She’s constantly being thrust into situations that force her to learn one life lesson or another as her big mouth—and two left feet—lead her in all the wrong directions. When borrowing her sister’s car without permission gets her into one such jam, she tries to extract herself by telling ever bigger fibs. “You lied to me,” Val finally says. “You looked me right in the eye and you lied to me!” Holly is always apologetic for her blunders, but this time it’s not so simple. “I’m not going to ground you, that’s too easy,” Val says quietly, assuming a parental role. “I’m just not going to trust you.”

When What I Like About You teaches honesty, loyalty and self-respect, it’s second to none. But when it ventures into sexual territory, it takes after Holly; it stumbles and falls. What happens when Holly discovers that one of Val’s boyfriends has a bedroom full of stuffed animals? Jokes fly about him being gay. Then, when it’s revealed that each animal is a souvenir from a heterosexual conquest, Val blurts, “I liked it better when you were gay!”

As the spring season wound down, the show’s sexual floundering escalated. In the finale, Val found Holly at home alone with a boy. The best advice she could muster was, “Wait until you’re ready. ... Sex is not a game. It is a magical, mystical, special connection.” Shortly thereafter, Holly discovered Val showering with a man. “You are so hypocritical,” Holly exclaimed. “You have one set of rules for me and another set of rules for yourself!” Val’s response? “It’s complicated.” No, actually, it’s not. Despite its natural sweetness and fun-loving spirit, attitudes like that make it hard to like What I Like About You.

Episodes Reviewed: Feb. 21, March 7, April 25, May 2, 9, 2003

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