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'Isaak' Puts 'McBeal' Spin on Rock World

Billed as a look inside the life of "the rock star next door," The Chris Isaak Show
-the new original series from Showtime-plays more like a raunchier, masculine Ally McBeal.

The show is as much about its lead character as his dysfunctional workplace family, in this case, the pop singer's management and real-life band, The Silvertones. Isaak plays a fictionalized version of himself, a la Jerry Seinfeld.

But the show is more of a McBeal
esque dramedy than a Kramerian farce.

In the pilot episode, Isaak is dumped by his girlfriend and has doubts about his abilities as a boyfriend. In this uncertain mindset, he's dispatched to the Pacific Northwest to shoot a music video with a former lover, actress Bai Ling. While there, he must confront Nedra (Jacqueline Samuda) a rigid production accountant with a habit of seductively undressing in front of an open window in her hotel room, adjacent to Chris-while rudely rejecting his advances.

Though the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny in a few spots and the writers steer away from cliché, the convoluted plot twists of the pilot are hard to follow. With introductions out of the way, the second episode is mercifully more streamlined.

That episode centers on the arrest of keyboardist Anson (Jed Rees) for unpaid parking tickets. He's sentenced to do community service on a road gang, where he unsuccessfully tries to curry favor with a fellow convict-Bret Michaels of the '80s hair band Poison Meanwhile, the female cop who arrests Anson propositions Chris, and the two begin an ill-fated affair. There's also an attempt by manager Yola to be treated for insomnia, which falls flat when she falls for her doctor.

The Anson and Yola characters have enough potential appeal to become the Kramer, George or Elaine to Isaak's Jerry.

The herky-jerky camera style can be jarring, and there are a few inexplicable bits in which Chris unveils thoughts to a nude woman named Mona, who lies stomach-down on a shag-carpeted carousel.

The Chris Isaak Show
bows Monday, March 12 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.