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Picking up chicks, and generic plotlines

''Freddie" is a TV portrait of a young man desperately clinging to his masculinity. It's a Freudian study in gender identity, parental taboo, and sexual behavior. And it's a compellingly paranoid vision of castrating women as seen through a macho lens.

OK, ''Freddie" is really just another primitive sitcom in which a dude tries to score hot babes, premiering tonight at 8:30 on Channel 5.

The dude is Freddie Moreno (Freddie Prinze Jr.), and his girly action has been checked by the meddling women sharing his bachelor pad, including his grandmother, his niece, his sister, and his sister-in-law. No matter how hard I strain to give ''Freddie" thematic heft, it's really only about whether our cute hero can pick up chicks with his buddy Chris (Brian Austin Green) while so many mother hens cluck around his roost.

The show may be slightly more than generic fluff to you, if you consider the network series return of Green from ''Beverly Hills 90210" to be some kind of pop anti-event event. Green's Chris is the dumber to Prinze's dumb, a rich neighbor who does nothing with his time except nose around for new conquests. Tonight, he drags Freddie to a laundromat so they can meet ''poor" women who are needier and more easily impressed than their usual dates. Green is energetic and relentless in his slimy-guy moves, and if there are funny lines in the first two episodes of ''Freddie," they belong to him.

Prinze, son of the late Freddie Prinze of ''Chico and the Man," fits in too naturally in TV's brightly lit comedy atmosphere. Mostly known for his movie work in the likes of ''Scooby-Doo," he quickly adopts the sitcom genre's trademark speak-yell, pioneered by the likes of Tony Danza. He's more expressive than he needs to be.

Prinze's Freddie is a swinging celebrity chef in Chicago with a sleek apartment, but he's also a moral guy, unlike Chris. He wants to give his family stability, particularly since his brother recently died. Freddie has taken in his flighty sister-in-law Allison (Madchen Amick), who's a tamer version of Megan Mullally's Karen from ''Will & Grace." He has also taken in his bossy sister, Sofia (Jacqueline Obradors), and her daughter, Zoey (Chloe Suazo), since Sofia was recently divorced. And Grandma (Jenny Gago) is on hand, a cranky lady who understands English but will only speak in Spanish (we see subtitles).

All together, the women complicate Freddie's life -- until the ''aww shucks" moment at the end, of course, when everyone decides they love one another.

''Freddie" resembles a similarly formulaic 1998 NBC sitcom called ''Conrad Bloom," in which Mark Feuerstein was oppressed by the women in his life. But ''Freddie" tries to distinguish itself with Puerto Rican dash, and it has been even more ruthlessly built to appeal to TV's most coveted audience, young women, by exploiting Prinze's pinup appeal. Maybe ABC should think about adding a third element to help the show attract viewers: It's called good writing.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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