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'Pepper'? Pass

Rebecca Romijn
Rebecca Romijn

PASADENA, Calif. — Rebecca Romijn is the nicest, sweetest, most genuine ex-supermodel you could ever hope to meet.

Which is why it's hard not to root for her when she takes on a starring role in the new WB series "Pepper Dennis" (tonight, 8 p.m., Ch. 30).

"I wasn't particularly looking for a TV show. I was just looking for good material," Romijn said.

Apparently, after being unable to find any good material, she decided to do "Pepper Dennis."

Which is too bad. This nice, sweet, genuine ex-supermodel is stuck in a vehicle that's, well, mediocre at best. And that's being kind.

Pepper is an ambitious TV reporter whose big career plans take a hit when she's passed over as the anchor at her Chicago TV station in favor of Charlie Babcock (Josh Hopkins) — a guy she has a one-night stand with before she finds out he's her new co-worker.

Pepper isn't just stupid in life, however, she's stupid on the job. Tonight, she assaults a woman while trying to spring a "gotcha!" interview — a move that, in the real world, would land her in jail.

And a bit later, she's arguing with Charlie while they're on the air and she shouts the f-word at him.

Yet Pepper is not fired. By the time the episode is over and she's landed the big story in an utterly unbelievable way, she's being congratulated for her pluckiness.

Apparently, we're supposed to relate to Pepper because of her pratfalls. But the physical comedy inserted into the lame scripts is even more awkward than the rest of the show.

Part of the problem with "Pepper Dennis" is that it can't decide what it wants to be. It lurches from slapstick comedy to touching moments, romantic comedy to workplace drama, family comedy to family drama. And the cumulative effect isn't greater than the sum of is parts, it's considerably less.

IT'S NOT REALLY FAIR to criticize a fictional TV show for its lack of realism — it's supposed to be entertainment, not documentary. But part of the problem with "Pepper Dennis" is that it never for a moment makes you believe any of its characters actually work in TV news.

Yet executive producer Aaron Harberts said he and his partner, Gretchen J. Berg, "always thought that journalism would be great fodder for a show. . . . We felt like it was just a great romantic comedy world."

Well, there was mistake No. 1 (even though some journalism is laughably bad).

C'mon, did you even visit a local TV news operation?

"Gretchen actually used to work at a television station," Harberts said.

Yeah. She was a summer intern for an entertainment reporter.

"And I went to journalism school for a year at Northwestern," Harberts said.

Gee, I a took class in accounting, but you don't want me doing your taxes.

Again, I'm not suggesting a series like "Pepper Dennis" has to be accurate, but it has to convince us it's a real workplace or the show doesn't work. And I'm not convinced Harberts has ever met anybody who works in local TV news.

"What I like about watching the local news is there's an element of maybe not taking themselves so seriously," he said.

What? I've met lots of network news people with a sense of humor — up to and including the likes of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Paula Zahn, Ted Koppel, Barbara Walters and Brian Williams. It's generally the local news personalities who are pompous and humorless because they're still trying to prove something.