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NEW SITCOM `ON OUR OWN' IS SO DUMB IT'S INSULTING

Last night, Fox premiered an hourlong drama series about a family of orphaned children, "Party of Five" - and it turned out to be one of the best new shows of the year.

Tonight, ABC premieres "On Our Own," whose producers took the same premise, made it a half-hour comedy and came up with the most dreadful new program of the fall.It's not that "On Our Own" is vulgar or tasteless or offensive - except that it's offensively stupid and insulting to the viewers' intelligence. The writers obviously have no respect at all for TV watchers.

(Not surprisingly, this is another sitcom from the people behind "Step By Step" and "Full House.")

The seven Jerrico kids, who range in age from 18 months to 20 years, include six members of the real-life Smollett family - attractive, apparently musically inclined siblings who nonetheless display little acting ability.

The fact that the six so closely resemble one another makes the casting of Ralph Louis Harris as the eldest brother all but ridiculous. Over the years we've grown accustomed to seeing TV siblings who don't look alike, but to have six who look greatly alike and one who looks like the stand-up comedian from across the street is just silly.

And Harris, who definitely has talent, is trapped in the silliest of roles. In order to satisfy the local child welfare authorities that there is adequate supervision of the family, Harris dons a dress and masquerades as the family's Aunt Jelcinda.

The only thing that could possibly be stupider than the character who falls for this - the head of the child welfare department is actually attracted to Aunt Jelcinda! - is watching this moronic mess.

"On Our Own" previews tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Ch. 4 and again Friday at 7:30 p.m. before moving to its regular time slot Sunday at 6:30 p.m.