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WB angling for adults with 'Jack & Jill'

She's Jack, he's Jill

From Sherri Sylvester
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Except that the main men are a graduate student and his just-out-of-college buddies -- and most of the main women have real careers -- "Jack & Jill" could be the WB's answer to NBC's "Friends." The comedy-drama, which made its debut at the end of September, follows a group of 20-somethings in New York as they address romantic issues.

As in "Friends," these characters' workaday lives have so far been featured very little on the show. And as in "Friends," the characters, including the show's eponymous lead characters, seem destined to pine after each other to no avail.

The show's title holds a twist.

Take Amanda Peet's role. "I'm Jacqueline Barrett," she says by way of introduction in the show's first episode. "My friends call me Jackie."

Her counterpart is played by Ivan Sergei. His character, David Jillefsky, goes by the nickname Jill.

Amanda Peet as Jacqueline Barrett

Cast of fast friends

The ensemble cast also includes Jill's ex-girlfriend, Jackie's roommate and Jill's buddies (Simon Rex and Justin Kirk). All are fast friends -- the actors say, not only in-character but out, as well.

"Our trailers (on the set) are kind of adjoined," Rex says of colleague Kirk. "We have about this thin a wall between us" -- he puts his fingers very close together, measuring -- "so he and I have gotten really close. I put a cup to the wall and I hear him talking. I mean, it's great!"

Peet says there's a bond between the women on the show, too, one of them being Sarah Paulson. Paulson, playing Jill's ex, goes after the same guy Jack does. But rather than becoming adversaries, they're cohorts, both newswomen.

Clearly they were cast for their interviewing skills.

"My agent was like, 'Oh my God, you're going to love her,'" Peet says. "'You're exactly the same. She's almost kookier than you.' You see how I can't get anything done. Did you see her slippers, too?" she asks her interviewer.

Paulson's retort: "Your mouth is so big! You just opened it so wide, I saw your spleen."

Ivan Sergei as David "Jill" Jillefsky

Capturing chemistry, ratings

The actors say the writers are working more comedy into the show, and trying to capture all this chemistry. It is, after all, a series about post-college types hanging out together.

"Everyone's dealing with it as we speak," says actress Jaime Pressley. "We're all in our 20s, you know, and we're all dealing with what we're playing out everyday. So, not only is it therapeutic for us, but it works."

But "Jack & Jill" has quite a hill to climb in the ratings. The series, which should be getting a hand-up with its "Felicity" lead-in, is still searching for an audience on Sunday nights. Its ratings have been dismal so far. Another new WB show, "Safe Harbor," got a 3.6 rating in the week of September 29, while "Jack & Jill" got only a 2.9.

The good news: It did beat "Charmed" (Thursdays) and "Jamie Foxx" (Fridays), both WB shows in their second seasons, suggesting that even with a weak showing "Jack & Jill" could at least finish the year out.

But in the week of October 6, "Jack & Jill" went down the hill even farther: The show dipped to a 2.5 rating in prime time, tumbling from the 98th position to 112.

Ultimately, the show's stars know that in order to fetch a pail of the ratings numbers they need, they're going to have to get viewers to take to the series the way they've taken to each other.

Fall TV preview: Wooing the weekend crowds
September 4, 1999

The WB: Sunday night lineup
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