Facebook Twitter

Will these `Others’ be `Significant’?

SHARE Will these `Others’ be `Significant’?

Campbell - the central character in the new Fox drama "Significant Others" - is having a very bad day.

Cam (Eion Bailey), as he's known, walks in on his two best friends, Nell (Jennifer Garner) and Henry (Scott Bairstow) having sex. The rock band that he has managed for three years is kaput because one of the band's members is in drug rehab and another is in jail. And his old girlfriend, Jane (Elizabeth Mitchell) is about to marry his older brother, Ben (Michael Weatherly).Welcome to "Significant Others," a show that is the most intriguing of the current crop of midseason replacements - and is also the most bothersome.

On the one hand, this is a show created, produced and written by Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman, the supremely talented duo behind "Party of Five."

On the other hand, the characters they've created are pretty much wildly annoying, immature and self-centered - a fact Keyser and Lippman don't exactly deny.

"This show started out with the premise that we wanted to talk about what it was like to deal with a bunch of people at that time in their lives - around mid-20s, a couple of years after college - when you begin to realize that you don't have any more free time. That the decisions you make begin to count," Keyser said. "There are a couple of years there in your 20s when you figure you can do anything. You can meet someone and spilt up and meet somebody else. You don't take a job and it doesn't matter.

"And, eventually, you realize that the decisions you make count. That you have to close some doors that you'll never go though. Make commitments to certain things. And this is a story about people who either make commitments or don't and how they look forward to that point when they're 30 and say, `Well, this is how I created myself. This is how I decided I'm going to be.' "

The big question is whether we can wait for these characters to grow up. Because, as they are now, they can be extremely aggravating.

Campbell doesn't know what he wants, but he knows what he doesn't want - to work in the family's bra-manufacturing business. (His parents - played by Richard Masur and Jennifer Savidge want desperately for him to do so but he resists them at every turn.) He didn't go to college, but he wants to find a job that will make him happy. He dumped Jane, but now he wonders if she's the one.

And, while he seems like a pretty nice guy, his behavior just before his brother's wedding is reprehensible.

Nell is also incapable of commitment. She quits job after job - and man after man. She just doesn't know what she wants.

Henry is afraid of success. A talented writer, he's wasting his talents writing online pornography.

They are devoted friends, but they aren't particularly good ones. They're far too self-centered for that.

There's so much whining going on here that the show might have been titled "twentysomething."

Still, the producers promise us that "Significant Others" will be less heavy than "Party of Five," which started with orphans and has gone through cancer and alcoholism and drug abuse and teen pregnancy and teen suicide (among other tragedies) in its nearly four seasons on the air.

"I think the show has a lighter tone to it, in part because that time of your life is a time that's really filled with optimism," Lippman said. " `Party of Five' deals with darker themes.

"That's not to say that this (`Significant Others') isn't an emotional show. We hope there will be some episodes that send you scurrying for a Kleenex box because that's the kind of television that interests us. . . . It still has issues of love and family, but I think we've grown the characters up. I mean, no one goes to high school, thank (goodness)."

Perhaps the fact that this comes from the people who bring us "Party of Five" has raised expectations too high. Still, "Significant Others" has left me feeling rather ambivalent. It is certainly well written, nicely acted and handsomely produced. And I have a great deal of faith in Keyser and Lippman.

But I wanted to like it more than I did. I wanted to like the characters more than I did.

After seeing two episodes, I'm still not sure whether these "Others" will turn out to be "Significant" or not.

"PARTY" WILL GO ON: If you're wondering what happened to "Party of Five," the answer is - nothing, really.

"Significant Others" is scheduled to fill Fox's Wednesday at 8 p.m. time slot for six weeks - followed by the return of "Party," which will be airing new episodes.

And "Party of Five" has already been renewed for next season, so its future is as secure as is possible in network television.

"Significant Others," as Lippman put it, "was not born out of a feeling that `Party of Five' is on its last legs. It was really just - what do we want to do next as writers? There are similarities, because it comes from the two of us, and we know what we like and we know what we're interested in."