Mid-season's 'Courting Alex' premieres Monday on CBS

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 10:47 p.m.
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Jenna Elfman and Josh Randall star in "Courting Alex," a new series that premieres Monday on CBS.

CBS has a long and rich history of comedic leading ladies.
Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore are TV Hall of Famers on the strength of shows bearing their names. Bea Arthur ("Maude") and Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown") had long-running CBS hits driven by their title characters.
Lately, though, women have been in the passenger seats on CBS' few remaining sitcoms. "King of Queens" and "Still Standing" are built around tubby Dads, "How I Met Your Mother" is male-centric and the title of "Two and a Half Men" speaks for itself. So it's time to throw a changeup, and "Courting Alex" is it.
The new Monday-night sitcom, supplanting the temporarily shelved "Out of Practice," ably showcases the long, tall talents of Jenna Elfman. It's her first TV series since "Dharma & Greg" left ABC in 2002. And she's thoroughly appealing in an otherwise formulaic comedy that's also buoyed by Dabney Coleman in another of his patented sourball turns.
Elfman plays attorney Alex Rose, who's married to her job but hopes to remedy that. Her single-minded work ethic is reflected in an opening dinner scene. Alex's date has no chance after her cell phone rings.
"Ten seconds, I promise," she says before pulling out a deposition. The poor guy is soon phoning her from across the table to inform Alex he's leaving.
Coleman is Bill Rose, thrice-divorced head of the family law firm. He'd like to see his daughter settle down with widow-peaked junior partner Stephen (Josh Stamberg), who of course has no shot. Alex instead finds herself oddly attracted to free-spirited tavern owner Scott Larson (Josh Randall from "Ed"). The firm is leaning on him to sell the place to make way for a skyscraper, but so far he won't budge.
Alex also has a British artist friend named Julian (Hugh Bonneville), who bursts into her apartment whenever he pleases in a manner once deployed on "Murphy Brown" by housepainter Eldin Bernecky.
One of Julian's post-midnight bust-ins is tied to his ongoing interview with "a lovely journalist from The New York Times."
"And we've decided to go off the record and into the Jacuzzi," he says while helping himself to a bottle of Alex's champagne.
The Times likely won't be pleased with this particular swipe, but The New York Post no doubt will be envious.
Whatever the caliber of writing - and it's mostly pretty good - Elfman wins the day with her very winning persona. "Courting Alex" is a solid vehicle for both her and Coleman, who's still crack-up funny in delivering lines such as "Now I've got to kiss the (rear) of some kid named Skip or Slappy."
"Courting Alex" looks good to go for several springs to come.

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