New sitcom lacks class, but not class loathing

In "Complete Savages" (7:30 p.m., ABC), Keith Carradine plays Nick Savage, a single dad and firefighter raising five boys. But he's really a comedy stereotype sharing the screen with five poorly developed young characters. There's a nerdy genius, a stupid jock and three ciphers in between. They all behave like frat boys. There are several jokes about armpits. They like to throw trash around and speak in one-liners.

The biggest worry in their lives is how to hire a new housekeeper and what food to have delivered. Did it ever occur to the writers and producers of this show (which, amazingly, include Mel Gibson and several talents from "The Simpsons") that working families with modest incomes and five kids are not obsessed with servants and endless take-out? Did they ever consider that not all blue-collar males and their boys are crude, selfish slobs?

People in television wonder why sitcoms are dying. Let's start with creators who have a dim understanding of their subject matter and a visceral contempt for their characters, who in their spoiled, vulgar self-absorption are a reflection of the people and culture that created them.

l Rob Lowe, who seems to get prettier with each new show, stars in "Dr. Vegas" (9 p.m., CBS). He's Dr. Billy Grant, an intrepid physician who gives up the high-pressure world of emergency medicine to become the house physician of a glitzy casino.

From his fancy penthouse office, the good doctor treats all manner of accidents and illnesses. His most important patient is the gambling joint's biggest singing attraction, whose casual drug habit has gotten out of hand. We're supposed to believe that when not saving lives (at least three in the pilot episode), Billy is out all night with his own floating poker game. Oh, my, that makes him a "complicated" character.

Tonight's other highlights

• A quest for normalcy on the second-season premiere of "Joan of Arcadia" (7 p.m., CBS).

•Cate mulls a new job on "8 Simple Rules" (7 p.m., ABC), now in season three.

• Wrecking Charley's car on "Hope & Faith" (8 p.m., ABC), now in its second season.

• Dating feedback on the third-season opener of "Less Than Perfect" (8:30 p.m., ABC).

• Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): Internet predators.

• Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): Barbara Walters speaks with Mary Kay Letourneau.


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