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Don't look for much comic relief from networks

We could all use a good laugh considering the depressing state of the economy and the increasingly ugly state of the presidential race.
Actually, the state of comedy is pretty depressing on network television these days, too. Fox's anemic new comedy, "Do Not Disturb," has already been canceled.

And unfortunately, NBC's new Thursday night female bonding comedy, "Kath & Kim," and FX's new gross-out Thursday comedy, "Testees," are cartoonish series that are almost bankrupt of laughs.

Based on a successful Australian series, "Kath & Kim," which premieres at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on Channel 2, stars Molly Shannon and Selma Blair as mother and daughter with totally different agendas.
Kath (Shannon) is an energetic, fortysomething woman enjoying her second shot at life now that her needy, spoiled daughter is supposed to be her new husband's problem. Kath is into dancing, exercising and dating a sandwich shop owner, Phil Knight (John Michael Higgins), who adores her.
But then Kim returns home, finding the challenges of marriage to Craig (Mikey Day) too challenging because she considers herself a trophy wife. "I'm getting a divorce," she announces. "It's O-V-U-R."
Some prize she is -- she won't or can't cook, is childish, jealous and whiney. And those are her good points.
Kim has worn her welcome out after two annoyingly silly episodes that make you wonder about everyone's sense of humor Down Under.
There is the usual number of pop culture references -- Britney Spears, Melanie Griffith, Whitney Houston, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Mills, Snoop Dog and Bruce Jenner -- found in the kind of series in which writers think merely mentioning a celebrity name is funny. All right, I did laugh at the Cher and Jenner references in separate episodes.
And the final scene each week has a "Boston Legal" feel as this colorfully dressed mother and daughter bond while talking.
But there is no dancing around it -- the one-joke premise seems more suited to being a recurring "Saturday Night Live" skit than a regular series. The first two episodes aren't anything to write home about despite Shannon and Blair's best efforts to energize anemic plot lines in a series that needs a bigger cast to expand the possibilities. If it doesn't get funnier quickly, it will be "O-V-U-R" quickly.
The idea of "Testees" (10:30 p.m. Thursday, basic cable), which will follow FX's hit comedy, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," is much funnier than the execution.
Peter (Steve Markle) and Ron (Jeff Kassel) play two slovenly roommates who solve their financial problems by agreeing to test medical products and document a "symptoms report" for a company called Testico. The third testee, Larry, is played by series creator Kenny Hotz, a Canadian whose credits include "South Park" and "Kenny vs. Spenny."
Thursday's premiere is loaded with jokes about sex, erections, pregnancies and flatulence that try to top the offensive rate of "Sunny" and most often fall flat.
At times, it is almost painful to watch the crude attempts at what passes for humor. At those times, "Testees" practically makes the animated "South Park" seem like "Saved by the Bell."
Viewers are usually more accepting of crudeness from characters in animated shows than in shows with actors like this one. Clearly, FX is testing the limits of outrageousness by providing limited laughs. But I'd test at least one more episode before totally giving up on it.
Ratings: "Kath & Kim": 1 1/2 stars out of four; "Testees," 1 1/2 stars


>More ratings hits

With only about 50 percent of the market receiving Channel 4 due to the battle between its owner, LIN TV, and Time Warner Cable, the local CBS affiliate saw significant declines in its normal Monday night ratings.

Channel 4's 6 p.m. news had a 3.1 rating, finishing third to Channel 2's 10.5 and Channel 7's 8.5. At 11 p.m., Channel 4 was third with a 4.8 to Channel 2's 10.2 and Channel 7's 6.8.

In prime time, CBS' programming on Channel 4 still was able to beat NBC's on Channel 2 for second place to ABC's dominant "Dancing with the Stars" on Channel 7. However, CBS' normally dominant "CSI: Miami" (6.9) finished second in the time period to ABC's "Boston Legal" (9.3) at 10 p.m. and barely finished ahead of NBC's "Life" (6.2).

CW 23, the other LIN TV station caught in the crossfire, barely got an audience for "Gossip Girl" (.2, yes .2) or "Privileged" (.5).


>Renewal Notes

HBO has announced that it has renewed "Entourage" for a sixth season, which will air next summer ... CBS has announced it will bring back the Canadian co-production "Flashpoint" -- a surprise summer hit -- for 13 episodes ... And Fox has announced that it has ordered a full season of "Fringe," the J.J. Abrams series that has had a strong early start to the season.


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