'18 to Life' brightens short-lived summer season

With so many Canadian imports arriving on American network television, I've devised a simple test to determine whether a show hails from north of the border. Do the characters look more like real people than supermodels? If so, look for the "Made in Canada" tag. Is the comedy writing a little less gag-driven than Hollywood fare? It just might be written by Canadians.

Over the past several seasons, our northern neighbors have provided some moderately successful shows, like "Flashpoint" on CBS and "Being Erica" on SOAPnet, as well as the completely unwatched "The Bridge," recently canceled by CBS. ABC's "Rookie Blue" is also a Canadian import, but not one that any country should necessarily be proud of. And "Degrassi" has been a cult hit for more than a decade.

Having recently failed miserably with the two stupid, soul-crushing, fake-documentary shows "High Society" and "Fly Girls," the CW offers "18 to Life" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14), a genial romantic comedy produced in Montreal and now in its second season on Canadian television.

With a plot at least as old as "The Mothers-in-Law," a late-1960s sitcom recently released on DVD, "18" concerns two young-looking 18-year-old next-door neighbors who decide, rather impulsively, to get married before they even enter college.

Stacey Farber ("Degrassi") stars as Jessie. She's pretty in a rather human way, but she would never make a casting call for "Gossip Girl." Her TV beau, Tom (Michael Seater), has a face for comedy.


The course of true teen love does not run smoothly. The newlyweds must combat their respective parents' resistance to their engagement. In true sitcom fashion, their families reflect polar-opposite lifestyles. Tom's parents are rather square, bourgeois and have high hopes for his education. Her folks are unmarried and unreformed hippies. Someone's been watching repeats of "Dharma & Greg."

The first half-hour offers a lead up to their big day and not-so-big wedding night and often sparkles with dialogue and attitudes that should delight fans of "The Gilmore Girls." The second episode (8:30 p.m.) saddles both the characters and the audience with the consequences of their life-altering deed and is not half as amusing.

But as summer-replacement series go, "18" offers an oasis of intelligence and occasional wit in a desert of reality television, cooking competitions and repeats. Savor "18 to Life" while you can. Like summer itself, it won't be around forever.

• Doing "American Pickers" one better, "Scrappers" (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Spike) mines for comedy in a Brooklyn, N.Y., scrapyard, filled with metallic refuse, tough guys and outsized personalities. 

Other highlights

• A dozen acts perform on "America's Got Talent" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

• Amateurs hope to shine on "MasterChef" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• An NBA star takes on fellow athletes at their own games on a new season of "Shaq vs" (8 p.m., ABC).


• "Shark Bite Beach" (8 p.m., Discovery) recalls bloody incidents in California and Mexico.

• "Warehouse 13" (8 p.m., Syfy, TV-PG) begins a crossover episode that continues with "Eureka" on Friday night.

• Alicia takes on a healthcare provider on "The Good Wife" (9 p.m., CBS, r, V-14).

• Tommy tries to help Colleen on "Rescue Me" (9 p.m., FX, TV-MA).

• The "Rachel Zoe Project" (9p.m., Bravo, TV-14) enters its third season of fashion management.

Cult choice

A 24-hour marathon of Steve McQueen movies concludes with the 1965 card-shark drama "The Cincinnati Kid" (3 a.m., TCM), co-starring Edward G. Robinson and Ann-Margret.

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