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'Properties' seeks laughs on familiar ground

Nicole Sullivan is a lighter version of Kathy Griffin, whose raw humor defines the D-List. Like Griffin, the ''Mad TV" alum is a redheaded ham who's eager to sacrifice her dignity for the sake of a good self-mocking joke. On her new ABC sitcom, ''Hot Properties," she plays a desperate urban single to the hilt, vanity be damned. Her character, Chloe, is a needy mess of insecurity who believes breast-augmentation surgery will solve all her romantic ills. Also, she admits to having instigated a few men-stalking incidents in her day.

Chloe is an appalling caricature, as she struggles but fails to take the whole ''He's Just Not That Into You" approach to dating. She embodies the negative behaviors described in every gender-based self-help book published since the 1970s. Thanks to Sullivan and her sharp timing, though, she is a bit of a TV guilty pleasure. On ''Hot Properties," which premieres tonight at 9:30 on Channel 5, she's just sick enough to make the show's overly broad tone and its derivative material somewhat bearable. And Sullivan appears to be having a smirkingly good time, which helps to counteract the labored script.

The concept of ''Hot Properties" is ''Sex and the City" with bright lights and a laugh track. Chloe works with three women, all of them stylishly attractive, in a Manhattan real estate office (thus the punny title). Gail O'Grady from ''American Dreams" is Ava the sensible one, although her 25-year-old husband doesn't know she's in her 40s. Sofia Vergara is Lola, who recently divorced her husband of 10 years when she learned he was gay. For some unfortunate reason, Vergara bases the character entirely around an overdone Latino accent. And Christina Moore is Emerson, a dumb rich girl who can only benefit from the others' worldly cynicism (and their worship of Oprah Winfrey).

Despite the actresses' happy energy, ''Hot Properties" falls into terribly familiar comic territory. The women spend all their time talking about men, love, and sex -- and mostly the latter, as loud, libidinous one-liners fly. Ultimately, the show is mostly valuable as a vehicle for Sullivan and as a reminder of the observational wit and the character depth that made ''Sex and the City" so exceptional.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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