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If you thought you heard all the gay stereotype jokes in the world on the short-lived John Goodman series on Fox, "Normal Ohio," then you probably can't tell the difference between Jason Bateman ("Hogan Family") and Justine Bateman ("Family Ties").

Jason is the co-star of the new CBS series, "Some of My Best Friends" (8 tonight, Channel 4) alongside Danny Lucci ("Snoops").

Here's the setup. Bateman is Warren Fairbanks, a down-on-his-luck gay magazine writer who needs a new roommate in Greenwich Village to share the bills because his boyfriend left him.

He puts an ad in the paper, using the shorthand GWM (gay white male) so he'll only get applicants who don't have to be hit over the head with his sexual orientation.

Enter Frankie Zito (Nucci), a strong, straight Italian with great abs, little aptitude and a desire to be an actor. He and his Neanderthal buddy, Pino (Michael DeLuise), miss most of the gay clues until it is too late and the deal is signed.

Warren realizes that Frankie misunderstands a little late, too, after Frankie is enamored with a portion of the female anatomy.

"He's a breeder," concludes Warren's flamboyantly gay Asian friend, Vern (Alec Mapa).

If that line isn't bad enough, there is this classic from Frankie after he figures out that Warren is gay: "Oh my God, you're not Jewish."

The cast also includes Buffalo's Joe Grifasi as Frankie's father, who wants him to go into the family business; Camille Saviola as his mother; and Jessica Lundy as Warren's divorced sister and landlord.

You don't have to be a fan of NBC's "Will & Grace" to recognize the unending stereotypes -- Warren's love of Broadway musicals, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler and his health-conscious diet (called "fairy chow"), Frankie's overbearing parents and macho image, Vern's outlandish wardrobe.

What you won't recognize is anybody who lives in the real world today.

This is a series that asks viewers to believe a New Yorker would look for an apartment in the Village today and not consider the idea that a male looking for a roommate might be gay.

But underneath the stereotypes in the opening two episodes is an undercurrent of tolerance that barely makes this adaptation of the motion picture "Kiss Me Guido," tolerable.

In the opener, Frankie is confronted by his own homophobia. Next week, he worries that his macho childhood friends -- including one former jailbird played by an actor who has a two-bit role in "The Sopranos" -- will realize that he is rooming with a homosexual and asks Warren to be just one of the boys as a coverup.

The writers even make a "Sopranos" reference, with Warren cracking at one point, "I don't want to antagonize the cast of 'The Sopranos.' "

Bateman's occasionally raspy voice seems a bit irritated but he is quite good as Warren, who wants to be accepted for who he is. He recoils at the idea of playing the "straight" man at the same time he tries to be a good sport to help his new roommate.

Nucci, who played Leonardo DiCaprio's best friend in "Titanic," is a charmer and a hunk who manages to infuse some nuance in a stereotypical role. He makes Frankie a likable guy, who believes his Stone Age friends might slowly come to understand and accept his NGF (new gay friends) in the same way that he has, in time.

The writing comes from the "Three's Company" school of comedy, relying on misunderstandings and charades. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Still, time is not on the side of "Some of My Best Friends." It won't be long -- probably another week -- before the stereotypical jokes and the Neanderthal characters become awfully tiresome.

Rating: 1 star out of 4

Starting Monday, WB plans to run an extra rerun edition of "The Gilmore Girls" at 9 p.m. on Channel 49 in place of "Roswell" for about a month. It is a suitable family-friendly show to follow "7th Heaven." "Gilmore Girls" will still air at 8 p.m. Thursdays, where it has been competing with two little series called "Survivor" and "Friends."

The double entendre comedy that Howard Stern produces for cable's FX, "Son of the Beach," returns at 10 p.m. March 13.

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