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3 Comedies Are More Ho-Hum Than Ha-Ha

And then there were none.

The last of the fall’s new prime-time series arrive this weekend, reaching the airwaves probably just prior to the first cancellations. The trio of comedies are NBC’s “The Home Court"--whose capable star, Pamela Reed, lifts it above the ordinary--and Fox’s very ordinary “Too Something” and the somewhat better “Misery Loves Company.”

Reed exceeds her material in the premiere of “The Home Court,” playing Sydney J. Solomon, a divorced Chicago family court judge who tonight clashes with her eldest son, Mike, over his insistence on dropping out of college. The result is a rift between two headstrong people that has Mike (Breckin Meyer) temporarily living on the street in his car.

At home with Sydney are her daughter, Neal (Meghann Haldeman), 16; “computerphile” son Marshall (Robert Gorman), 13, who communicates with his dad on the Internet, and hyperactive Ellis (Phillip Glenn Van Dyke), 11.

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Meanwhile, Charles Rocket plays a fellow judge and Meagen Fay is Sydney’s sister, who is as prissy as Sydney is earthy. Sydney arriving home with Chinese takeout for her brood: “Dinner’s ready!”

The humor is sparse; the best of it comes in luncheon dialogue between the two sisters. Reed makes the best of her bossy character, though, and has a funnier script at her command in the second episode. It finds her accelerating her pursuit of sex after being confronted by her own mortality.

So far, though, the star is the show’s only clear asset.

Which may exceed by one the assets of “Too Something,” a flat comedy about goofy buddies named Eric and Donny (Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward), one an aspiring novelist, the other an aspiring photographer.

Their somewhat offbeat demeanor doesn’t obscure the routineness of this premise: roommates jabbering about nothing in the presence of other people--notably their friend, Evelyn (Lisa Gerstein)--who also talk a lot without saying much.

In this case, the half-hour is consumed largely by endless schmoozing about Eric’s crush on a young investment banker (Portia de Rossi). The good news is that they’re employed by the same firm. The bad news is that he works in the mail room, she’s an executive.

The worse news is that, initially at least, “Too Something” is a Muzak buzz with little to distinguish it from similar comedies.

One of those is “Misery Loves Company,” also no high achiever, but at least a chunk of TV with occasional glints of intelligence and characters you can envision actually existing on this planet instead of Pluto. Not that you’d necessarily want to spend much time around some of them.

More buddies here, just older ones. It’s another half-hour of guy talk, much of it taking place in a tavern around a table the size of a large Frisbee, with Joe (Dennis Boutsikaris), his brother, Mitch (Christopher Meloni), Perry (Julius Carry) and Lewis (Stephen Furst) hashing over their lives.

The opener dwells largely on what happens when the single Mitch picks up a stunning blonde, a bit of trite nonsense that goes on too long. Some of the show’s dialogue is clever, though, and the cast is good.

All too rare in TV comedies, moreover, “Misery Loves Company” aims to give its characters dimension. We learn, for example, that Joe has split from his wife and is a compulsive advice giver who irritates his brother. And the oft-divorced Perry feels threatened by his son’s admiration for pro basketball star Dennis Rodman. The latter sequence ultimately sinks under the weight of its own schmaltz, but you still appreciate the effort.

Very nice. What “Misery Loves Company” has too little of, though, is comedy that makes you laugh.

* “The Home Court” premieres at 9:30 tonight on NBC (Channels 4 and 36).

* “Too Something” premieres at 8:30 p.m. and “Misery Loves Company” at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox (Channel 11).


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