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THEY'RE LOSERS -- BUT HOW LOVABLE?

Byline: David Kronke Television Critic

ABC introduces two new comedies tonight, and like the characters who populate them, they're both underachievers.

In ``The Knights of Prosperity,'' Eugene Gurkin (Donal Logue) lives in a miserable apartment where a wall poster reads, ``Focus.'' Clearly this advice has served him well in his 20 years of janitorial labor.

One evening, Eugene watches a fawning profile of Mick Jagger, who just oozes vapid pampering (too bad he won't likely return to parody his image after tonight's appearance).

Mick would never even notice if he had a few million lifted from his ledgers, Eugene figures; you get the feeling he wouldn't even mind.

So Eugene assembles a crack squad of inept nitwits who, under the blanket name of ``The Knights of Prosperity,'' plot to rob Jagger's Manhattan condo, unaware of the joint's obsessive security measures.

He even has T-shirts printed up and hires an intern to help for college credit -- Eugene's not exactly running a stealth organization.

Former ``Late Show With David Letterman'' executive producer Rob Burnett is ``Knights' ''co-creator, with Letterman an executive producer and Paul Shaffer providing '70s- exploitation-

flick-style music. Logue's doltish populism is amusing, as are Sofia Vergara and Kevin Michael Richardson as members of Eugene's ragtag bunch (she provides the guns; he provides a receptacle for all the cookies brought to the meeting).

The show's a little hackneyed, and one wishes it were a little funnier, but it's certainly fueled by an eager-to-please energy.

Too eager, maybe.

That's followed by ``In Case of Emergency.'' It takes a fairly dark premise -- four friends from high school, all having utterly betrayed the promise they once held, are reunited nearly 20 years after graduating -- and almost immediately turns it into something stupid and cartoonish. Of course, its creator, Howard J. Morris, most recently worked on ``According to Jim,'' so perhaps that's to be expected.

Nebbishy Harry (Jonathan Silverman) has just undergone a bitter divorce. Jason (David Arquette) expects impending jail time thanks to his involvement with an Enron-like company. Sherman (Greg Germann) is a self-help weight-loss guru who thoroughly torpedoes his career after his wife dumps him. Former class valedictorian Keli (Kelly Hu) is relegated to toiling as a masseuse -- and not an officially licensed one, if you get my drift.

No sooner has the show established its bittersweet theme than it goes stark raving moronic. Harry achieves epic levels of wimpiness; Jason pursues a doctor (Lori Loughlin at her unconvincing best) with a maniacal zeal that can only be described as pathological, given her repeatedly insisting she's not interested and is in fact engaged.

Sherman manages to escalate into an even more clueless, poorly motivated jerk, while Keli isn't well-developed enough to be one-dimensional, though one cannot fathom any circumstances under which she would've hooked up with her abusive lout of a boyfriend.

At one point, one of the group says with anguish, ``We're not these guys -- we're not losers.'' Actually, based on all existing evidence, that's precisely what they are.

David Kronke, (818) 713-3638

david.kronke@dailynews.com

THE KNIGHTS OF PROSPERITY - Two and one half stars

What: Donal Logue leads a group of misfits and losers in a quest to rob Mick Jagger's New York condo.

Where: ABC (Channel 7).

When: 9 tonight.

In a nutshell: Eager to please; perhaps too eager.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY - Two stars

What: Nearly 20 years after graduating high school, four friends are reunited at the nadir of their lives.

Where: ABC (Channel 7).

When: 9:30 tonight.

In a nutshell: Tumbles quickly into cartoonishness.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Josh Grisetti, left, Kevin Michael Richardson, Maz Jobrani, Donal Logue, Sofia Vergara and Lenny Venito are a gang of would-be thieves -- with matching custom T-shirts -- in ``The Knights of Prosperity.''

(2) Greg Germann, left, Kelly Hu, Jackson Bond, Jonathan Silverman, Lori Loughlin and David Arquette are the stars of ``In Case of Emergency,'' a comedy about high school friends who reunite and learn that their lives aren't quite going as planned.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 3, 2007
Words:668
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