"The American Embassy"
Mark Sachs March 11, 2002

How will you make it on your own? This world is awfully big, and girl, this time you're all alone....

As tonight's premiere of "The American Embassy" opens (9 p.m. Fox), Emma Brody (Arija Bareikis) is having a Mary Richards moment. A smothering mother, a failed romance and a general case of the blahs convince the Ohio State grad that what she needs most in life is to make a fresh start, so it's off to London to take that vice consul job with the U.S. Embassy.

Emma is intent on leaving all the old baggage behind, but when the airline leaves her real baggage behind as well, it signals a bumpy ride ahead for the series' centerpiece. "The American Embassy," smashingly filmed on location in England, is billed as a drama, but it spends much of its premiere episode floating along in a frothy romantic-comedy gear, and it does so rather effectively.

Bareikis ("Deuce Bigalow"), who bears a resemblance to actress Terri Garr, is a likable performer who can throw off some serious sparks in scenes with the new men in her orbit, particularly wolfish CIA agent Doug Roach (David Cubitt).

The embassy is staffed with the requisite eccentric characters for Emma to play off of, and then there's the audibly amorous roommate and the cross-dressing neighbor.

Just to make sure there's enough to occupy viewers, the embassy has to deal with cases involving a naked American, a child-custody fight and even a terrorist attack.

The gears do grind when the show tries to pull off these considerable shifts in tone, but the production from Jersey Television (an arm of Danny DeVito's Jersey Films) and 20th Century Fox feels solid enough to offer some hope that these things can be smoothed out.

Emma, you might just make it after all.

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