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`IN THE HOUSE' IS BOTH DUMB AND DERIVATIVE

NBC has built a reputation lately - and greatly improved its ratings - on the basis of its hit comedies.

From "Seinfeld" to "Frasier" to "Friends" to "Hope & Gloria" to "NewsRadio," the Peacock network has become known for its smart, funny sitcoms.Unfortunately, NBC's latest offering, "In the House" (7:30 p.m., Ch. 2), is neither. "House" could much more accurately be termed dopey and derivative.

This is the sort of brainless junk we've come to expect from ABC on Friday nights.

In this dimwitted half hour, Debbie Allen plays newly divorced mother of two Jackie Warren, who has just moved into a new house. Turns out the house belongs to an injured pro football player Marion Hill (rapper LL Cool J), who's down on his luck while trying to recover from knee surgery.

Would it surprise you to learn that Marion is living in an apartment above the garage? And that, before long, he's agreed to act as the nanny to Jackie's two kids?

And that the two kids are a bratty sitcom kid (Jeffery Wood as Austin) and an obnoxious sitcom teen (Maia Campbell as Tiffany)?

Actually, there's nothing in the premiere of "In the House" that isn't predictable. And nothing that's funny.

The level of humor here runs along the lines of laughing at Austin's orthodontic headgear and the boy asking his sister, "Did I mention that I dropped your toothbrush in the toilet this morning?"

Jackie remarks that a health drink "looks like snot." And Austin complains that his older sister "told all the kids at school I'm Gary Coleman's love child."

What makes the lack of humor even less bearable is a particularly obnoxious laugh track that gushes guffaws for seemingly every line that comes out of any actor on the set - whether it's a joke or not.

When Jackie objects to sharing the kitchen with Marion, she tells him, "Maybe you ought to just go out and buy yourself a hot plate." It wasn't a joke, but it was followed by uproarious laughter.

Rather than being witty and wonderful, "In the House" is a live-action cartoon full of stale gags. Which may make it a perfect fit with the show that precedes it, "Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

But let's hope NBC finds something better to fill both half hours.