HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Let's see now... four fairly aimless slacker types carving out something resembling an existence in New York City, no discernible satisfaction level, a pathetic sheen glistening off their skin. While the WB has already given this pseudo-hip slice of derivative teen trendiness a new name, what it could really use is a new concept.
Originally called "Zoe Bean," the WB switched titles last month to "Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane," based on WB entertainment president Susanne Daniels' belief that it better reflects the sitcom's ensemble nature.
No matter what they call it, it is clearly the WB's attempt, with a half-hour comedy, to court that youthful demographic addicted to dramas "Dawson's Creek," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Charmed." It's a formidable task for "Zoe."
The network has gone to executive producer Michael Jacobs (creator of "My Two Dads," "Boy Meets World" and "Dinosaurs") to bring laughter to the angst-and-acne crowd. There is surely quirkiness to burn in the peppy half-hour about the trials of four wisecracking high school kids who see New York as their private den of self-absorbed horrors.
In the center of this orbit is Zoe Bean (nice work from Selma Blair), a bright but forlorn everygirl who would be a total loser if she didn't bear a passing resemblance to Neve Campbell. She is surrounded by Jane (Azura Skye), the mousy, weird best friend -- evidently a sitcom prerequisite -- as well as by Jane's ludicrously self-assured fraternal twin, Jack (Michael Rosenbaum), and lactose-intolerant Jewish geek Duncan (a very George Costanza-esque performance from David Moscow).
"Duet's" Mary Page Keller is also on hand as Zoe's workaholic mom. She works so much she's rarely seen.
The intermittently amusing pilot script from creators Sue Paige and Daniel Paige thrusts Zoe into a neurotic quest for the attention of hunky Montana Kennedy (guest star Scott Foley). But it's worth noting that a show called "Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane" is dominated at the outset by someone named Breeny, a surly girl in a wheelchair played like the second coming of Rosie O'Donnell by Sara Rue. Her character will recur; she's better than the top-billers.
This comedy wants to be seen as cool. But while director Jeff McCracken lends the proceedings an energetic pace and a lively sensibility, it's hard to see hipness in a show with exchanges like this:
Zoe: "I think he asked me out for dinner."
Jane: "Quite a testament to your Wonderbra."
Ooh. Cleavage humor. Cool.
Zoe ........ Selma Blair
Duncan ..... David Moscow
Jack ....... Michael Rosenbaum
Jane ....... Azura Skye
Iris ....... Mary Page Keller
Mrs. Milch . Amy Aquino
Breeny ..... Sara Rue
Montana .... Scott Foley
Bob ........ Rick Hall
Gigi ....... Amy Hathaway
Gloria ..... Lynsey Bartilson
Filmed in Los Angeles by Touchstone TV. Executive producer, Michael Jacobs; supervising producers-writers, Sue Paige, Daniel Paige; producer, Morgan Sackett; director, Jeff McCracken; camera, Tony Askins; editor, Marco Zappia; production designer, John C. Mula; music, Musikvergnuegen Inc.; sound, Richard Masci; casting, Janet Gilmore, Megan McConnell.