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TV Series Review

After making a name for himself as Conan O’Brien’s sardonic sidekick on late-night TV, Andy Richter traveled to prime time last year where he launched his critically acclaimed but largely unwatched comedy Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Now his world revolves around five teenage children in the Fox sitcom Quintuplets, which is enjoying more fans but less praise.

Bob Chase (Richter) shares the limelight with his wife, Carol (Rebecca Creskoff), but they’re upstaged anytime their quints are near. That’s because Quintuplets’ creators shamelessly have written each child as a gaudy caricature. Paige is the blonde bimbo whose only love in life is gooey gossip. Parker is the girl-crazy jock. Penny is the bookish, standoffish one. Pearce is the übergeek. And the height-challenged Patton serves as class clown.

If stereotyped characters were the worst of it, every family in America could tune in weekly and talk about those broad generalizations. But apart from the occasional episode that offers clean laughs (like when Dad quarantines flu-infested family members in the basement), this series will have discerning viewers scrambling for the remote. One episode was devoted entirely to erections and masturbation. Another story line required Parker and Paige to pretend they were dating, which included the sibs sharing a passionate off-screen kiss.

It’s Patton, though, who pins the offensiveness meter. He’s not only fond of unleashing outrageous sexual comments, but makes a big deal about getting aroused every time he’s around pretty girls. (Dad tells him the only way to avoid such embarrassing circumstances is to pleasure himself beforehand.) When a girl unbuttons her shirt to show him her breasts, he promptly passes out with delight.

Meanwhile, Bob and Carol are lousy, selfish parents. They refer to their kids as “weak links” and accuse them of “taking away our lives.” After Bob gets stoned devouring marijuana-laced brownies he mutters, “As soon as this buzz wears off, I’m going to have a little chat with [the kids] about responsibility.” It’s a good thing he never gets around to it because when he does bother to impart values, they’re usually the wrong ones. He instructs Parker, “When you’re confronted by a difficult decision in life, there’s always a weaselly way out.”

A primer on how families should not behave, Quintuplets provides something of a reverse road map to intergenerational bliss.

Episodes Reviewed: June 16, 23, 30, July 7, 14, 2004

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Steven Isaac

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