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'Big Day'
ABC's "Big Day" stars Josh Cooke as Danny, Marla Sokoloff as Alice, Stephen Rannazzisi as Skobo, Stephnie Weir as Lorna, Wendie Malick as Jane, Miriam Shor as Becca and Kurt Fuller as Steve. (Andrew Southam/ABC)
TELEVISION REVIEW

Too few real-time laughs

Sure, Jack Bauer can save the world from destruction with only a gun, a cell phone, and his girl Chloe at the computer. But can Jack come up with a few healthy heads of romaine? Can he stop a mom-zilla from rhyming with rich , a bridezilla from going all "Exorcist" on her fiance , and a wedding-planner-zilla from having a psychotic break ? Can Jack Bauer, American rogue hero, keep a pear vinaigrette from igniting a catastrophe?

I think not.

The sitcom "Big Day," which premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 5, is TV's latest extension of the narrative experimentation that has blossomed since the success of "24" and "Lost." It's a 24com, in which the farcical wedding day of a spoiled rich girl and her goofy fiance unfolds in semi-real time. As the clock ticks, the nuptials of Alice (Marla Sokoloff) and Danny (Josh Cooke) teeter on the brink of disaster -- not just because of the lettuce contretemps, but because Alice's dad hates Danny and Danny's dad plans to wear a kilt. Will the season finish with a ceremony or a breakup? Or will the season not finish at all because no one is watching?

Despite its formal ambition, "Big Day" is disappointingly ordinary. The ABC show is aiming to be an elongated version of those bland, mildly distracting big-screen wedding comedies -- "Father of the Bride," "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Betsy's Wedding, " "The Wedding Planner," "The Wedding Date," the list goes on. The single-camera production values are above par, as the show glides through the lush rooms and backyard of a suburban upper-middle class home, but the story lines are as familiar as the chorus of "Feelings." There's not one twist on the show that will catch you by surprise.

The subplots include an usher who is crushing on the groom; an usher who is crushing on the bride; Alice's bitter sister, who slept with the arrogant best man; and the best man, who stumbles into every scene since his contact lenses are gone. Meanwhile, Alice and her mother, Jane (Wendie Malick), war over the greens, culminating with the tearful bride locking herself in the bathroom. And the central plot is no more original, as Alice and Danny seem to go on the rocks during every episode. They love each other, but she's insecure and he's too boyish, insisting the wedding march be the theme to "What's Happening!!"' Oh those jitters!

Malick brings some verve -- as she did on "Just Shoot Me" and "Jake in Progress " -- as the controlling Jane. Malick knows how to make superficial funny, as Jane fights to make everything look right. "I've had things done to my face and neck to get ready for it," she says about the event, and she barks out orders to the poor wedding planner, Lorna, played by the hysterical Stephnie Weir of "Mad TV." Jane is Dr. Frankenstein to Lorna's Igor, and the two actresses make an enjoyable team. Sokoloff and Cooke aren't as entertaining, even though they are the stars.

"Big Day" is not a strict serial, in that you can drop into almost any episode and quickly figure out who's who and what's going on. None of the characters are so original -- like the janitor on "Scrubs," or Dwight on "The Office," or Barney on "How I Met Your Mother" -- that they'll make you scratch your head in amusement. Everyone is from a preexisting mold, just like the little figures on the top of a wedding cake.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit boston.com/ae/tv/blog

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