Is there anything funnier than sex?
Wait, wait -- the creators of the new ABC sitcom "Hot Properties" have thoughtfully answered that question for us. And their answer is, of course: bad sex, sex therapy, sexual frustration and sexual equipment, to name just four. And they're only getting started!
The 30-minute series, premiering tonight on Channel 7 at the racy hour of 9:30, tells the story of three real estate agents on the prowl in loose, libidinous Manhattan. File the title of the show under Fair Warning -- it's only the first in a long series of double-entendres.
The fortysomething central character, Ava (Gail O'Grady), has a long, proud history as a party girl. But she has now taken herself off the prowl by marrying a 25-year-old hunk named Scott, who doesn't know her real age. (Scott is nowhere to be seen in the first two episodes; maybe he can at least call Ava on the phone sometime the way Charlie used to ring up the Angels.)
Then there are the other two -- Chloe (Nicole Sullivan), a man-hungry second banana who repels the guys as readily as Ava attracts them, and Lola (Sofia Vergara), a gorgeous Latina who's leery after spending 10 years with a husband she didn't realize was gay. They think of little else besides sex. Well, that and teasing each other about sex.
Ava: "Those [age] jokes are getting old."
Lola: "Unlike your husband."
Ava: "Scott and I made love three times last night. Not laughing about how young he is now, are you?"
Actually, not laughing about anything at the moment.
Tonight's episode brings the trio a comely blond client named Emerson (Christina Moore), who's looking for a townhouse to share with her handsome fiance. But of course everything on this show is really about sex; in Emerson's case it's the lack of it. She and her intended are both virgins, she says, and they plan to remain so until marriage. The truth comes out after Emerson leaves.
Chloe: "So we both slept with our client's fiance."
Ava: "What're the odds?"
Lola: "Pretty good." (Pause) "Well, let's face it -- you guys are kind of slutty."
Chloe: "Excuse me. I am not slutty. I am easy. It's subtle, but there's a difference."
And that's the setup for the premiere. What will they do? Tell Emerson her husband-to-be is a cad? Pretend they don't remember him? Something else even loonier?
Well, they could take the advice of Dr. Charles Thorpe (Stephen Dunham), the randy plastic surgeon down the hall who frequently pops in with a lewd remark: Keep quiet, he tells them, and show the couple the house. It's a win-win, he says -- "like sucking fat outta somebody's [bottom] and injecting it into their lips. I do it 10 times a day."
"Hot Properties" is reminiscent of several past series, most obviously the female quartets of "Sex and the City" and "Designing Women." It isn't fair to compare long-running shows with a new one, but those two offered considerably more character delineation than this one seems to aspire to. (The second episode hangs on Lola's grief over the death of her pet chicken, which more or less changes the subject from sex, at least briefly.)
Another show it brings to mind, oddly enough, is "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." That too featured a sane central character surrounded by a cast of eccentrics. But Mary Richards was a lovable creation and a very interesting one. A big problem with "Hot Properties" is its hollow core -- Ava exists as the beautiful, has-it-all ideal, the counterpoint to the imperfect others, and that isn't exactly arresting.
Sullivan and Vergara are playing stock characters, but even that gives them more to do than poor O'Grady. Together they're another version of the Empowered Woman we've been seeing so much of on television. For the show's sake, they might consider trading a little empowerment for a dose of originality.
Hot Properties (30 minutes) airs tonight at 9:30 on Channel 7.