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TELEVISION REVIEW

An abysmal farce, `Help' is not on its way

The WB's claim that "The Help" is a "biting satire" is only half true. No, it's not a satire, but yes, it does indeed bite. And it will be biting the dust before long, unless it can find a new cast, new writers, new producers, a new set, and an entirely new premise.

The sitcom, which premieres tonight at 9:30, is an abysmal piece of farce about the warfare between the wealthy Ridgeway family of Beverly Hills and their sqaud of abused servants. Upstairs, the Ridgeways fritter their lives away toning their abs and sipping cocktails. They're a greedy, self-centered, and insulting clan of nitwits, particularly the body-obsessed mom (Brenda Strong). Downstairs, the help complain about them, make fun of them, and brush dandruff into the food. From Maggie the cook (Mindy Cohn, from "Facts of Life") to Nanny Anna, they're as insane as the Ridgeways, with an added twist of class bitterness.

The only supposedly level-headed servant is the show's heroine, Maria the maid (Camille Guaty), who is trying to make enough money for beauty school. When Dwayne the trainer tries to steal a kiss from her, this smart young woman is ready with the comeback, "I would rather kiss an open herpes sore." You go, Maria.

The show, which is from "Married . . . With Children" creator Ron Leavitt, is unendingly unfunny, even if no one has explained that to the hyperactive laugh track. All of the jokes revolve around booty -- especially when it comes to the chauffeur, who's sleeping with one of the two Ridgeway daughters -- or doody. Yes, scatology is an ongoing gag on "The Help," particularly when Tori Spelling appears as Molly the dog walker. When Molly isn't with the dog, she has the great honor of taking grandpa Eddie outside to do his business. She gets the show's most emblematic line: "No plops for the poopster!"

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

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