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'In Case of Emergency'
If you can't stop yourself from feeling light-hearted and gleeful, "In Case of Emergency," starring Jonathan Silverman and Kelly Hu, is just the show for you. (Scott Garfield/ABC)
TELEVISION REVIEW

'In Case of Emergency'? ABC is hurting for laughs

If you're having a laughing emergency, and you can't stop yourself from feeling light-hearted and gleeful, and you need to sober up in a hurry, I have just the show for you. Called "In Case of Emergency," it will bring you down.

And it will bring you down in a weird way. The sitcom, which premieres tonight at 9:30 on Channel 5, is a peculiar piece of work that's a whole lot creepier than it means to be. Somewhere between the joke about a diet book called "Eating Mommy" and the suicidal guy who keeps hurting himself so he can flirt with a hot ER doctor, I knew I would not be laughing until after the credits rolled. In fact, I knew I would be unintentionally grossed out.

Here's my blurb, ABC: "In Case of Emergency" is a five-"ew" achievement.

Coincidentally, the show is structured like CBS's "The Class." Four people who went to the same high school are now miserable adults, and together they undergo farcical situations involving jealous boyfriends and ex-wives. Jonathan Silverman (from "The Single Guy") is a guy named Harry who visits a local massage parlor for a "massage," but balks when he realizes his "masseuse" is yet another high school classmate, Kelly (Kelly Hu). The massage parlor scene is the classic sitcom meet-cute gone sour.

Long story short, Kelly comes home with Harry. Meanwhile, Sherman (Greg Germann), the diet doctor whose "Eating Mommy" books and products have made him a rich man, has a breakdown and steals a pastry truck. He begins hanging out with Harry and Kelly, as does Jason (David Arquette), the fellow whose suicide attempt has taught him the beauties of masochism.

The doctor Jason is trying to impress is played by Lori Loughlin, who is by far the most likable presence in the cast. Silverman blubbers on neurotically in a sitcom performance that rates among the most highly strung sitcom performances ever. Dude, take a pill. Germann, who was the smug Fish on "Ally McBeal," is irritating here as well. And Arquette tries to bring sweetness to his role as the kooky financial whiz, but the script disallows likability. It forces him into the icky zone along with everyone else.

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

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