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Happily Wallowing in Some Trashy Stereotypes

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TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Nothing is more of a hoot than first-rate trash.

Nothing is more fun, for those of us on the lowly pavement, than watching America’s lofty nobility topple from the weight of their own obsolescence and decompose.

Fox’s irresistible new “Pasadena” has all of that, its indulgent, filthy rich and ostentatious characters flaunting money so old that it’s positively moldy. As a bonus, most of them are also morally corrupt.

As in bad-boy Nate Greeley (Balthazar Getty) stealing from his own family after his allowance has been cut off. And his brother, Robert (Mark Valley), being not quite the sterling protector he appears to be.

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And their father, billionaire publishing magnate and philanthropist George Greeley (Philip Baker Hall) advising his philandering son-in-law, Will McAllister (Martin Donovan), to be more “discreet” and not embarrass the family by sleeping with “some tramp from the office.”

These and other exquisitely lush stereotypes pour from “Pasadena,” which is narrated by 15-year-old Lily McAllister (Alison Lohman), the pampered but wholesome daughter of Will and Catherine McAllister (Dana Delany), as she learns gradually that her widely admired family is hardly as illustrious as billed.

“Pasadena” opens suspensefully. Will and Catherine have gone off to a fancy bash, leaving Alison and her younger brother, Mason (Christopher Marquette), alone in the mansion, when there’s a suspicious noise downstairs. Is it the French doors banging? And who is Phillip Parker?

There’s a “Twin Peaks” inkiness here, but with a more accessible plot along with dirty secrets and seething animosities galore, epitomized by a lovely party sequence that finds Alison beginning to see through her family’s gauze of respectability.

Meanwhile, sniffy family matriarch Lillian Greeley (Barbara Babcock) is lasered in on the dirty job of being moneyed and tasteful, relentlessly imposing her minutiae on unhappy Catherine (“This carpet doesn’t work with the upholstery on these chairs”), who smiles and dutifully tries to please. But how much longer can she take it? Do you hear ... how much longer?

Delaney and Babcock are especially grand together, perfectly capturing the tone of a premiere that succeeds largely by not taking itself seriously, affirming what connoisseurs of this genre have always known.

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Trashiness and decadence rule.

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“Pasadena” premieres tonight at 9 on Fox. The network has rated it TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14 with special advisories for coarse language and violence).

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