Picks and Pans Review: I Want to Marry Ryan Banks

updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

ROMANTIC COMEDY

ABC Family (Sun., Jan. 18, 8 p.m. ET)

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How do you come up with scripted programming sure to entice viewers who are addicted to those dating-and-mating reality shows? ABC Family solves the problem with this diverting TV movie.

Actor Ryan Banks (Jason Priestley) has dropped from the A list, supposedly because his playboy image is a drag on his career. Hard to believe, but let's move on. His manager and old pal Todd (Bradley Cooper, from Alias) devises a series in which Ryan will reveal his tender, romantic side while the voting public pares down a field of 15 women vying to be his bride. The audience seems to favor beautiful, levelheaded Charlie (Emma Caulfield, late of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as the next Mrs. Banks, but it turns out to be Todd who falls for her.

The script takes pokes at the artificial drama of reality TV—one contender is called tragic because she has braces on her teeth—and the comedy profits from the casting of Mark L. Walberg (Temptation Island) as the host and For Love or Money runner-up Paige Jones as an overeager bachelorette. Though the far-fetched ending strains to rise above cynicism, this movie is more fun than most of the shows it spoofs.

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