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Picks and Pans Review: Teachers

updated 04/03/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/2006 01:00AM

NBC (Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

COMEDY

High school English teacher Jeff Cahill affects a slouchy, sarcastic contempt for authority and even for his profession. If he were real and not a sitcom character, he'd probably do all sorts of awful things: buy beer for minors hanging outside the liquor store, steal school supplies and sell them to the Communist Chinese. But because Jeff Cahill is a sitcom character, his disaffection disguises a fundamental nobility. He cares too much: He wants to break through to the kids, make them understand the meaning of Hamlet and so on. He hides his heart beneath jokes and shallow ripostes and lets the rest of the faculty mistake him for a clown.

Justin Bartha (National Treasure) plays the part with just enough charm to make Cahill tolerable. Physically he comes across something like Freddie Prinze Jr., only with the "gee whiz" adorableness sucked out and replaced by a heavier gas. The best one in the cast, though, is new history teacher Sarah Shahi (The L Word). She's very pretty and impressively unpleasant. But it's all phony-dumb.

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