Picks and Pans Review: The Big House

updated 04/05/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/05/2004 01:00AM

ABC (Fridays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
COMEDY

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It's too easy to call this new sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in reverse, but why make things unnecessarily difficult?

Standup comic Kevin Hart plays a college student named, duh, Kevin Hart, who had it cushy out in Malibu until his rich widowed father went to jail for embezzlement. Now Kevin has to live with his Aunt Tina (Arnetia Walker), Uncle Clarence (Keith David) and three cousins in Philadelphia. They have strict house rules, they can't afford cable TV, and they buy generic shampoo. Obviously a nightmare for the Malibu Marvel.

On The Big House, stock characters and situations are right at home. Clarence talks big about corporal punishment, but manipulative Tina really rules the roost. The storylines call for the characters to tell ridiculous lies—to impress pretty girls, Kevin claims to live in a posh hotel and fakes a religious epiphany—and then squirm out of them. Though Hart is eager and energetic, the cast member to watch is Faizon Love (Elf) as rotund cousin Warren. He doesn't seem to be working too hard, but he's the steady laugh-getter this show sorely needs.

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