When a trailer kicks off with the strains of a Goo Goo Dolls single, you know the show’s gotta be great melo-camp. And when a curvy Erika Christensen (“Swimfan”) strips off her top in the open air during the first three minutes, it all goes to hell.

Steven Neff
A good jaw and tustled hair is all you need (and a British accent). (COURTESY OF ABC)

“Six Degrees,” ABC’s latest attempt at tickle-your-fancy drama, might just catch on. But the odds aren’t working in its favor. With a pilot burdened by complicated sketches into the lives of the show’s six main characters (six degrees – get it?) and heavy-handed attempts at inserting backstory, viewers get confused just trying to remember who’s who, not to mention who’s connected to who. Single mom Laura (Hope Davis, “American Splendor”), photographer Steven (Campbell Scott, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”), ad exec Whitney (Bridget Moynahan, “The Recruit”), gambling man Damien (Dorian Missick, “Lucky Number Slevin”), mysterious Mae (Christensen) and clean-cut policeman Carlos (Jay Hernandez, “World Trade Center”). Just looking at the list makes your eyes swim.

Besides the difficulty the viewer will have keeping all the people straight, small details trip the pilot up. Overly cheesy dialogue, an overload of face-capturing, soul-baring camera angles and a multitude of poorly acted sequences make it all too easy to walk away. There’s no hook here, no draw alluring enough to keep us watching beyond the silly voiceover that attempts to connect the seemingly casual shots of each character to an overarching monologue of why everyone in the world is connected. There’s a little whooshing sound every time someone walks by another character that soon gets old. And does everyone in New York have this kind of bone structure?

Beyond these trivialities, which are considerable, the show’s emotionally brimming looks into each character’s individual problems overwhelm the viewer and prevent them from really caring about any of his dilemmas. Sure, our hackles rise when we find out that Whitney’s boyfriend might be cheating on her. Yes, we’re intrigued by Mae’s mysterious midnight phone call. But we never see any of the characters for long enough to know whether or not they’re worth devoting our emotions – and more importantly, our time – to watching on a weekly basis.

2 out of 5 stars

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