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Our advice for ''Just Shoot Me''

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There are a couple of significant reasons why Just Shoot Me finds itself in the catbird seat as a prime potential Seinfeld replacement. The show’s creator, Steven Levitan, started out with a solid premise — a bunch of wildly disparate eccentrics running a magazine (we at EW can dig it). Plus, he’s shown a creative willingness to monkey with the characters, to redefine their essential qualities as the series has proceeded. It’s just that, well, that redefinition isn’t proceeding as smoothly or as quickly as a viewer used to Seinfeldian vividness and precision might like. So, in the spirit of Incipient Must Seemliness, here are a few suggestions:

·The most problematic person on the show is its primary player: Laura San Giacomo’s Maya. She started out working at her father Jack’s sexy Blush magazine with feminist reservations and severe pantsuits; lately, she’s straining the seams of tight miniskirts and heeding advice to ”stick out her chest” to get a man. Maya is supposed to be the sane center amid a gaggle of goofballs, but she often seems as scattered and schizo as the rest.

·Let’s also clarify the character of George Segal’s Jack: Is he a dope or a devious middle-aged crazy? In some episodes, Jack seems acutely aware of all the internecine warfare going on at Blush and how office politics works. In others, he’s a clueless doofus spouting non sequiturs: What is this guy? And in a related matter:

·The business about Jack’s new young wife, Allie, remaining unseen is a device that lost its novelty around the time of Norm Peterson’s Vera on Cheers. Currently, Frasier (of which Levitan is a writing grad) does it better with Niles’ Maris, so why bother? Either show us Jack’s wife or dump her, so Jack can further frazzle daughter Maya with a succession of new dates.

·David Spade’s unctuous, libidinous, sneering Dennis Finch — don’t change a thing about him. But as Finch’s popularity grows, don’t make the mistake of giving us too much Finch. Spade’s always said he signed on to this kind of sitcom to be part of an ensemble, to lie back and throw in occasional zingers. Keep him that way.

·Wendie Malick’s neurotic ex-model Nina Van Horn: In a show that is frequently written and directed by women, Nina is slowly emerging as less of a cliche (pathetic, screwdriver-drinking-in-the-morning single) and more of a debonair, do-anything smart aleck. Keep this up and showcase Malick more, because this fine comic actress brings crack Broadway-farce timing to her role.

·Enrico Colantoni’s photographer Elliott DiMauro: He’s in danger of being the useless fifth wheel of this show, winner of the Tony Shalhoub in Wings Award for Superfluous Comic Relief. Sometimes Elliott’s a horny heel; sometimes he’s Maya’s empathetic best buddy. Refocus this photog or oust him — a different sort of film shooter — more flamboyant or broodingly witty — might make for a better mix.

Finally, a little plea: Just Shoot Me, if you hit the big time, don’t lose your theme music — that wiggly little electric-guitar-and-bass riff is funkier than Seinfeld‘s. It gives Shoot Me a shot of energy from the get-go.

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