'Roommates' and 'Sophie' reviews

Tylerfrancavilla_roommates_240 "Roommates" and "Sophie" are off to a bad start even before they debut on ABC Family on Monday, March 23, mainly because they're taking over the timeslot for "Kyle XY," which left irate fans in the lurch with its recent cliffhanger series finale.

Of course, these new shows will help ABC Family to capitalize on the audience of young women who watch the massively popular "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," which airs its season finale the same night. Unfortunately, instead of continuing its trend of thoughtful, character-driven programming that contributed to the success of "Kyle XY," "Greek" and "Lincoln Heights," the cable network digs deep and unveils this ... dreck.

ABC Family didn't even offer up a full screener of the first "Roommates" episode, only making a few clips of the show available instead. This is generally a bad sign, but at least TV critics were mercifully spared the full-blown, brain-numbing experience.

Post-college nice guy Mark (Tyler Francavilla) runs into his high school crush Katie (Dorian Brown) and schemes to become her third roommate in hopes that he'll finally win her. Of course, she's still carrying a torch for her lousy on-again, off-again boyfriend, of whom her friend and roommate Hope (Tamera Mowry) disapproves.

Tameramowry_roommates_240 Hope's got her own problems though since she lost her swanky TV exec job, but keeps up appearances by dressing up each day and leaving for work ... as a bitter coffee barista. Also joining the hijinks are roommate James (Tommy Dewey) and Mark's best friend Thom (David Weidoff).

From the laugh track to the incredibly contrived dialog, "Roommates" feels as if the writers of Disney Channel sitcoms decided to cobble together a preternaturally pale "Friends" knock-off. But while "Hannah Montana" can be forgiven for its juvenile tone, the formula is a bad fit with "Roommates," which is supposed to appeal to somewhat older demographic.

Marginally more successful is "Sophie," which revolves around the unfortunate talent agency owner Sophie Parker, played by the necessarily perky Natalie Brown. After a fortune teller predicts that Sophie will have a continuing string of bad luck after which she'll really hit rock bottom, her life becomes a shambles.

Her baby daddy boyfriend of five years, Rick (Sebastian Spence), is the one behind her misery. First, he leaves her for her best friend and top client Melissa Bryant (Amy Ciupak Lalonde). Then he starts up a rival agency and steals her clients and even her receptionist. Poor Sophie is left with her one has-been actress Estelle (Sara Botsford), best gay friend Matt (Jeff Geddis) and a baby that's going to demand to be born any minute.

Nataliebrown_sophie_240 While the concept of the single career mom picking up the pieces is strong enough for endless stories, the execution has much to be desired. Yes, women can identify with Sophie's troubles, but frankly, the first episode is just not funny. Most of the characters, including Sophie at times, are just plain annoying -- especially Estelle and her adopted Chinese daughter Ophelia (Chantelle Chung).

It's likely that after the rash of bad luck in the first episode, Sophie's character will have the chance to become more proactive, a trait she lacks so far and desperately needs for us to like her. So far Brown handles her harried character well, which is probably the only thing that saves the show.

As it is, however, neither "Roommates" nor "Sophie" looks to be strong enough -- even combined -- to be worthy of taking "Kyle XY's" place. Don't get too attached to either of these shows.

What did you think of the shows? Are they worthy of the ABC Family brand?