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Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Josh Cooke and Marla Sokoloff in the tiresome wedding comedy with a
Josh Cooke and Marla Sokoloff in the tiresome wedding comedy with a "24"-style formula and a bride who threatens to go nuclear. (By Neal Karen -- Abc)
By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ABC's "Big Day" is a little sitcom with big aspirations, so its creators aren't afraid to steal from their betters who have gone before them. First the conceit: The series is based on the events of one wedding day -- a rip-off of "24." (If, that is, Jack Bauer were the committing type and his show lasted a half-hour.)

Then there's the look: Everything's shot in hand-held camera style, casting Southern Cali suburbia in a gauzy Day-Glo, a la Wisteria Lane. And then there are the familiar gags: A randy wedding guest hooks up with slutty sister of the bride ("Wedding Crashers"). The boombox held aloft to demonstrate undying love and fealty ("Say Anything"). Not to mention bits from an old Chevy Chase movie and the general hijacking of wedding-day high jinks from "Father of the Bride" (of the Steve Martin, not Spencer Tracy, provenance).

"Big Day," written by the married team of Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, doesn't have an original bone in its carefully constructed body, which would be a pardonable offense if it were actually funny. Which, alas, it is not.

It begins at 8 a.m., the morning of the wedding of Alice (Marla Sokoloff) and Danny (Josh Cooke), a pretty pair with a penchant for pouting. So what if Danny, a camp counselor, doesn't have health insurance or a gig that Alice's dad (Kurt Fuller) approves of? (We don't learn if Alice is gainfully employed or not.) So what if Alice forced Danny to include her still-besotted ex in the wedding party? Or that Alice's mom (the always excellent Wendie Malick) is a control freak, but still hot in that older-woman way, and Danny may have "inappropriate feelings" for her?

They're in love! What could possibly go wrong?

"I love you a lot, and we are 10 hours away from getting married," Alice says. "But if anything goes wrong before then, I think I could snap in a pretty scary way."

Presumably this means viewers can count on at least 10 episodes to stretch out the chaos until Alice and Danny finally make it down the aisle, providing the viewer with plenty of opportunities to watch Alice snap in said scary way. Problem is, you can call the pitfalls before they actually befall Danny and Alice. The bits practically announce themselves with a bullhorn: Alice and her mother have a screech-off over proletarian Caesar salad vs. highfalutin baby greens with pear vinaigrette. Danny's best man loses his contacts! (Don't ask.) Watch him trip down stairs and bump into things. Again. And again. And again.

The frenzy is piled on to dizzying effect -- wacky wedding planner! secretly gay friend with the hots for the groom! the photographer who gets hit by a truck! -- so much so that you can see the writers behind the curtain whipping themselves into a froth at their keyboards.

There's a craft to comedy, a symphony of timing, one-liners and sight gags. "Big Day" never gets beyond feeling like an overconfident garage band mashing out cover songs.

Big Day (30 minutes) debuts tonight at 9 on Channel 7.

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