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CW turns to love and money on Sundays

The expectations game doesn't only involve tonight's vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

It also is being played when the CW (WNLO-TV here, one of the channels involved in the dispute between Time Warner Cable and LIN TV) debuts the new Sunday night lineup being programmed by Media Rights Capital, an independent film, television and digital studio.

My low expectations were pleasantly exceeded with one series, "Easy Money," that has a local angle. One of the show's actors, Katie Lowes, is a Western New Yorker.

"Easy Money" could be a tough sell in this economy. It revolves around a family-owned loan shark business in the Southwest. Of course, the current economic meltdown seems to have been partly inspired by banks and investment companies that some believe had the morals of loan sharks.

Quirky, violent, funny and mysterious, "Easy Money" plays like one of those basic cable series that doesn't demand all of its characters be good guys.

Laurie Metcalf ("Roseanne") serves as the family matriarch of the business, which obviously has some difficult clientele. Jeff Hephner is Morgan Buffkin, the young, smart, well-read, good-looking son who is the problem solver of the business. He's overqualified for the job and has some ethical and moral beliefs that cause him to question the whole family operation.

Lowes plays his sister, Brandy, who is in a troubled marriage to a guy involved in get-rich schemes. They also have a brother, Cooper (Jay R. Ferguson), who is a computer whiz but lacks common sense. Nick Searcy is dad and Judge Reinhold -- yes, Judge Reinhold -- is a detective with questionable ethics.

With Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider ("The Sopranos," "Northern Exposure") serving as executive producers, one probably shouldn't be surprised how intriguing the opener is and how well it introduces so many oddball and oddly likable characters.

But airing at 9 p.m. Sunday opposite "Desperate Housewives," "Cold Case," Fox's animated series and NBC's football, it is more than even money that "Easy Money" will be ignored. If so, the CW or Media Rights Capital should find a better place for it.

>Power of love

"Easy Money" follows the 8 p.m. cliched, romantic comedy, "Valentine," in which ageless Grace Valentine, aka the Goddess Aphrodite (Jaime Murray), is disturbed by modern dating methods and brings soul mates together in unusual ways. Think "Love Boat" with a Greek mythology spin.

"When it comes to love, there is always hope," is Grace's cliched philosophy. Her rebellious, trigger-happy son, Danny, aka Eros (Kristoffer Polaha), uses a magical gun and a bow and arrow to make people fall in love. His best friend, Leo, aka Hercules (Robert Baker), tries to keep him in ethical check. Phoebe, aka the Goddess of the Oracle at Delphi (Autumn Reeser), finds the clients they need to bring together. Christine Lakin also is aboard as Kate Providence, a modern-day romance novelist who has to be persuaded to hop aboard the love train.

Creator Kevin Murphy ("Desperate Housewives") has produced a show that seems to suggest that one should promote love by almost any means necessary -- including violence and medication.
The opening story line uniting a man who has adored a woman friend for years without her knowing is sweetly told but hardly anything new. In fact, the plot line is very similar to the Patrick Dempsey-Michelle Monaghan flick, "Made of Honor." Unfortunately, it doesn't have the heart of "Honor."

The CW also premieres two, unpreviewed nonscripted shows Sunday opposite the Bills game in Arizona.

At 5 p.m., a Sunday documentary series, "4Real," follows celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Mos Def, Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Casey Affleck and Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers), who are dealing with pressing social issues in the world.
At 6 and 7 p.m., Hunter Ellis hosts "In Harm's Way," a reality series about people who do such dangerous jobs as oil well cappers, Coast Guard divers, minesweepers and war photographers.



>TV Review

"Easy Money"
9 p.m. Sunday
Review: Three stars (out of four)

8 p.m. Sunday
Review: Two stars

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