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TELEVISION REVIEW

The CW fumbles an opportunity with 'The Game'

They still write 'em like they used to. And that's too bad. ``The Game" is one of those old-fashioned D-grade sitcoms created not out of inspiration so much as assembled to be a generic time-wasting half-hour. This new CW series cranks out brash jokes that evaporate upon hitting the air, winds them into situations where women submit to their men, and leaves no aftertaste when it's gone. It's on TV, but it's never truly on.

How can it be that a comedy block that starts so promisingly with ``Everybody Hates Chris" at 7 ends with this pointless venture, which premieres tonight at 8:30 on Channel 56? Now that UPN and the WB have merged into the CW, with half as much schedule space, you'd think the programmers would have been more selective about which shows get slots. And, with so few sitcoms featuring African-Americans in leading roles, you'd hope that the programmers of the only network committed to black-led comedies would aim higher. And yet here we have ``The Game," which definitely doesn't have game.

The show is spun loosely off of ``Girlfriends," with a med student named Melanie (Tia Mowry ) living with her pro football boyfriend Derwin (Pooch Hall ) in San Diego. Melanie spends her time itching with jealousy about Derwin's slinky image consultant and worrying about whether he'll cheat on her during away games. Tonight, she decides to surprise him in his hotel room in Miami, where farce ensues. Also, ``awww" ensues, as Melanie learns a lesson about trust.

Much is made on the show about the friendship among the women in the lives of the players, although there is catfighting aplenty. Melanie is the newbie who is getting schooled in how to keep her man by veterans including spiky Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson ) and silly Kelly (Brittany Daniel ). Tonight, when Melanie goes on her mission to Miami, Kelly joins her and instructs her on how to police Derwin with a blue light that detects stains on hotel bedspreads. Yep, the show is that funny.

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

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