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18 to Life Review


Canadian TV imports haven't yielded many dividends yet to their U.S. network neighbors, other than to offer inexpensive time-fillers. So credit CW with finding a breezy, pleasant surprise with "18 to Life," a comedy that's tonally similar to the BBC's "Gavin and Stacey," where the central couple's relationship is viewed through the expanded prism of their daft, mismatched families. Granted, it's a familiar twist on coming-of-age comedy, but one graced with a light touch -- at least, beyond its initial premise.

As for that set-up, 18-year-old neighbors Jessie (Stacey Farber) and Tom (Michael Seater) have seen their childhood friendship blossom into romance, when a "Truth or Dare" game yields an unintended proposal -- namely, her "dare" that Tom propose. After a moment's hesitation, he does, and Jessie agrees.


Not surprisingly, this news is not embraced by Tom's straightlaced parents (Peter Keleghan, Ellen David), who suddenly rediscover their Jewish roots, even if that means having to remember their rabbi's name; or Jessie's folks (Al Goulem, Angela Asher), earth-loving hippies who wonder if Tom needs help from the Kama Sutra to satisfy their daughter's sexual needs.


The announcement also perplexes the pair's friends, what with Tom's plans to attend college suddenly thrown up in the air.


Produced by Derek Schreyer and Karen Troubetzkoy, "18 to Life" takes a laidback approach to whether these crazy kids really have a chance of making it together, pursuing their narrative in single-camera, semi-serialized fashion.


And while the show doesn't yield many belly laughs, it's warm and effective -- aided by the kids being inherently likable, even if the parents (foremost Keleghan as Tom's tightly wound dad) get all the best lines.


Lacking anything similar in its drama-laden lineup ("Life Unexpected" probably comes closest), CW will air back-to-back episodes in the 9 p.m. hour, but the show does point toward a comedy niche for the netlet -- hitting as it does upon neatly universal themes about young love and when kids are ready to flee the nest.


Production has already begun in Montreal on a second season, meaning any sign of life in this summer tryout could yield a return engagement.


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