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Sex in the country

Television | Men in Trees picks up where Sarah Jessica Parker left off

Issue: "'Infidel'," March 3, 2007

The New York fish were too few for the four women on Sex in the City to catch a good one easily. So imagine Sarah Jessica Parker morphing into Anne Heche, moving to Alaska, and carrying on Carrie's voiceovers from there. That's what you get with Men in Trees (ABC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET).

Witty dialogue, nice scenery, and the chemistry of certain co-stars make Men in Trees a watchable romantic comedy/drama, although contrived situations suggest that the writers have frequent flier miles to Fantasyland. The soapy characters also aren't particularly admirable, but are fun to watch make fools of themselves.

Marin Frist (Anne Heche), a relationship coach in New York, decides to move to Alaska after she uncovers her fiancé's affair on the way to a speaking engagement there. The mountains, mating wolves, a possibly rabid raccoon who tears up the now-useless $9,000 wedding dress in her closet, and the no-nonsense men "in trees" convince her she might for the first time learn something about men for real. "The truest thing about relationships is sometimes we don't know anything at all," she decides.

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Not that relationships in Elmo, Alaska, are free from intrigue. For example, Ben (Abraham Benrubi), the surprisingly urbane owner of the Chieftain bar in Elmo, has one estranged wife, Theresa (Sarah Strange), and one acerbic former girlfriend, Sara (Suleka Mathew), a former prostitute. Sara tries to repair her "working girl" reputation by learning to be an EMS technician, but when a classmate turns out to be a Lutheran minister hoping to date her, she acidly tells him that God will get in the way.

Marin avails herself of the chance to continue her slightly less canned relationship coaching on a local radio station, which unleashes her Sarah Jessica Parker--like effervescence, such as, "If you have hope, the universe lets you know what you need."

Apparently, the universe thinks she needs the Mr. Big--like Jack (James Tupper), the man in Elmo she most loves to insult (at first). The tension could last several seasons.

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