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'It's All' just loud, painful

However, 'Karen Sisco' is actually pretty good

"It's All Relative" wants to be ground-breaking, funny and sort of a latter-day "All In the Family." It's none of the above.

This sitcom (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4), turns out be loud, insulting and often painful to watch.

"Relative" takes the timeworn concept of people from different worlds falling in love and gives it a twist. Bobby (Reid Scott) is the community college student/ bartender son of blue-collar, Irish-Catholic right wingers (Lenny Clarke and Harriet Sansom Harris); Liz (Maggie Lawson) is a Harvard student who's the adopted daughter of a liberal, white-collar, gay couple (John Benjamin Hickey and Christopher Sieber). And — surprise! — the two sets of parents don't like each other.

The show wants desperately to be cutting-edge, but it's just cutting. The two sets of parents, portrayed as little more than cartoonish stereotypes, hurl insults and epithets at each other. It's equally offensive from either perspective.

Add in Bobby's trampy sister (Paige Moss) and the fact that both Scott and Lawson are instantly forgettable in their roles, and this is an instantly forgettable sitcom.

Does it matter that this comes to us from the producers of the Oscar-winning movie "Chicago"? Does it matter that this was written by former producers of "Frasier"?

No. But it does, apparently have something to do with the fact that those producers/writers also worked on the mega-bomb "Encore, Encore."

If you turned down the sound and look at "Relative," it looks like a quality TV sitcom. But as soon as you turn up the volume and hear what they're saying, you realize the next button you ought to push is to change the channel.

KAREN SISCO (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Ch. 4): At a time when there are entirely too many cop shows that look entirely too much alike, at least "Karen Sisco" is trying to be different.

It's not a completely successful attempt, but it's a worthwhile one.

The engaging Carla Gugino plays the character created by Elmore Leonard (and previously played by Jennifer Lopez in the movie "Out of Sight") — a smart, beautiful U.S. marshal working Miami's Gold Coast. She's a tough, capable cookie who's following in the law-enforcement footsteps of her father (Robert Forster). And she's consistently running up against offbeat, quirky characters.

It's an entertaining show that is at least trying to be somewhat different from the "CSI" clones clogging the airwaves. It deserves points for that.


E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com