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The new Fox sitcom "The Crew" is already this season's most improved new show. Even before it goes on the air.

Not that it's a particularly good show, mind you. But tonight's pilot episode (7:30 p.m., Ch. 13) is not utterly dreadful - and that's a big improvement over the original pilot.Viewers at home can rest easy - that original pilot will never make it on the air. Some of the jokes show up in tonight's reworked pilot, but much of the stupidity, tastelessness and sheer mind-numbing awfulness has been left behind.

What remains is an OK show with a couple of laughs. Nothing to get excited about. But then, nothing to make most of you run screaming from the room, either.

"The Crew" in question is the inflight service crew of fictional Regency Airlines - the flight attendants. And they're four rather different people:

- Jess (Rose Jackson) is black, hip and upfront. She'll tell you what she thinks - and often.

- Maggie (Kristin Bauer) is blond, rather naive and a product of her "ultra-conservative Salt Lake City upbringing."

- Randy (Charles Esten) is Southern, good-looking, none-too-bright and a lady-killer.

- Paul (David Burke) is young, good-looking, looking for love, and gay.

Also along for the ride is their witchy supervisor (Christine Es-ta-brook) and the dimwitted-but-handsome pilot she lusts after (Lane Davies). But, at this point anyway, both of those characters are little more than cliches.

And addition to the cast is the good-looking bartender, Mac (Dondre T. Whitfield), who works at the local hangout - and who would like to have a relationship with Jess.

In tonight's pilot, Jess and Maggie have a bit of a tiff over their different styles, and the guys are caught in the cross fire.

This is when we find out that Maggie is indeed supposed to be a Utahn. An irate Jess tells Randy, "I just wanna kick her, little Miss Salt Lake City."

Not real clever.

And the tiff between Jess and Maggie grows out of Mac's attempt to win Jess over.

There are a few moments of sharp dialogue, somewhat reminiscent of "The Golden Girls" and "The Five Mrs. Buchanans." And that is not particularly surprising, given that "The Crew's" creators/executive producers - Jamie Woot-en and Marc Cherry - also were executive producers of both of those shows. (And they created "Buchanans.")

But the relative paucity of such snappiness is disappointing. "The Crew" doesn't live up to either of its predecessors.

However, things could be worse. Fox could be airing that original pilot.

And if Wooten and Cherry can continue to make improvements in the show, maybe it will eventually turn into something worth watching.