Ken Tucker
November 03, 1995 AT 05:00 AM EST

As an unabashed rip-off of Absolutely Fabulous, Designing Women, and Cybill, there’s a lot of talent going to waste in High Society (CBS, Mondays, 9:30-10 p.m.), hereafter referred to as Absolutely Mediocre. Designing’s Jean Smart, Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell (Dances With Wolves), and Tony award winner Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls) star in this sitcom about New York publishing. Smart plays a writer of best-selling trash; McDonnell is her publisher and best friend. In the pilot, Prince, an old college pal of both, arrives from the Midwest to announce that she’s pregnant, getting a divorce, and wants to be with her friends. McDonnell’s sympathetic; Smart is sarcastic. High Soci — excuse me, AbMed — is filled with lines like, ”The woman thinks 12-stepping is a country dance.” Smart is miscast; she’s too likable a TV personality to be believable as a vodka-swilling cynic. McDonnell looks like a million bucks and is by far the funniest performer here, mostly because of the zing she puts into flat dialogue. Prince looks as if she’s suddenly remembered what it’s like to be in a play that closed on opening night. For this, CBS cancelled that nice Elizabeth McGovern show, If Not For You? C-

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