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TELEVISION REVIEW

Finding cliches irresistible, 'Modern Men' caves

You could think the title of the new WB sitcom ''Modern Men" is meant to be ironic, since its three heroes are primitive boys indeed.

You could think Jane Seymour had made a wise career choice by playing their ''life coach," who disciplines them like a sugar-addled Mary Poppins run amok.

And you could think this show will make the cut next season, when the WB and UPN merge into the CW and executives decide which series will survive.

But you probably won't be inclined to have any generous thoughts about this yawn-com.

''Modern Men," premiering tonight at 9:30 on Channel 56, is a muddy photocopy of every stereotypical male sitcom ever made. It's ''Three Princes" to NBC's ''Four Kings." Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who has a surer hand with procedural dramas, it is so mediocre it's almost fascinating to behold, ''almost" being the operative word. The three lead dudes looking for love are perfectly awkward in their roles, either because they're miscast or, more likely, because the roles are too shallow to inhabit. And Seymour appears uncomfortable sharing the screen with them, clinging to her dignity, her beauty, and her cleavage in the face of the sitcom void.

Doug (Eric Lively) is the guy who can't recover from his divorce two years earlier. And that's it: Every joke he makes revolves around that fact. Lively tries hard, too hard, to be funny as the over-sensitive dumbo. His delivery is more like a not-so-fine whine.

Kyle (Max Greenfield) is the ladies' man. He thinks he just wants to have fun, but he secretly hungers for romance. His definitive line comes next week, when he admits, ''I've dug my own grave -- with my penis."

Writers, take a bow.

And Tim (Josh Braaten) is the guy who keeps hooking up with incompatible women. He's the easiest character to take, as he gets pushed between his father and his sister. Dad (George Wendt) is a heathen who advises Tim, ''Next time you sense trouble, you've got to dump the girl first." And Tim's sister Molly (Marla Sokoloff) is a strong law student who urges him to respect his dates, reminding him that sperm banks could supersede the need for love if men aren't careful.

Molly is the person who pushes Tim into life therapy. And then Tim drags his buddies along with him, even if Kyle doesn't want to see ''a skirt with a degree" because ''we want to get chicks, not be them." As Victoria, Seymour plays against the potential to be a cloying Dr. Phil by turning her life coach into Dr. Pill. ''God knows you need me," she tells them, in between insults about their predictable ways with the opposite sex. She's a broken record with a fabulous British accent as, each week, she reads them a different chapter of the riot act with superior articulation.

One of these weeks, Victoria may caution the guys about irritating TV shows that reinforce sexist clichés. But the series probably won't last long enough for viewers to see that particular episode.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.

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