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Twins works to find audience

Twins works to find audience

Melanie Griffith isn't having an easy morning on the set of the WB's new series Twins. Adjusting to the constant script rewriting, typical of sitcoms, can be difficult for someone new to the genre. "I had a scene that was 10 pages, and I only got it this morning," she says. "That's hard for me. I'm not used to that. I'll get used to it."

The Golden Globe winner for 1988's Working Girl plays Lee Arnold, the glamorous mother of two adult daughters, Mitchee (Sara Gilbert) and Farrah (Molly Stanton). Griffith encourages herself by recalling how well she held up when making her Broadway musical debut in 2003's Chicago. "They bet I wouldn't last four days without having to take a break. So I was determined. I did 98 shows without missing a show. You have to stick to it and say, 'This isn't about me. I can do this!' That's why I'm an actress: to give, and to make other people feel."

Meanwhile, it's not yet clear how many episodes of Twins will be making people feel, well, anything. Since its mid-September debut, the sitcom's suffered poor ratings in its 8:30 p.m. Friday time slot, wedged between established comedies What I Like About You and Reba. But the WB is more inclined than other networks to give new shows a chance to find an audience. And what's more, Twins has an excellent pedigree. Its creators and executive producers are David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the Emmy-winning team behind the NBC sitcom Will & Grace.

The concept for Twins arose just as the salad was being ordered during a lunch the partners were having with openly gay WB Entertainment president David Janollari. They asked what actors the network had deals with; Janollari mentioned Gilbert, best known as the smart-tongued Darlene Connor on Roseanne, and a "blond bombshell" whom the pair prefer to leave "nameless." "David [Kohan] said, 'There's your series,' " recalls out producer Mutchnick. "I was kidding," interjects Kohan.

But Janollari liked what he heard and pressed the duo to develop the idea with at least Gilbert in the mix. Now Gilbert's one of the nonidentical twins who inherit a lingerie business from their parents, Alan and Lee. Alan (Mark Linn-Baker) is a brainy scientist, who--after he developed a fabric that proved perfect for sexy underwear--married the beautiful but maybe not so bright lingerie model Lee. One kid seems to be just like dad, the other more like mom. But like Will & Grace, which creates great laughs by both embracing and overturning sexual stereotypes, this sitcom seeks to play havoc with preconceived notions of brains versus beauty.

"My character is, I guess, supposed to be the square, brainy twin," says Gilbert, "and I think what is great about this show is that it does find the comedy in a lot of the stereotypes, and is pushing people to know that those stereotypes aren't always completely accurate." Gilbert was about to rehearse a scene at a business meeting in which her supposedly less smart sister is the one who actually comes up with the bright idea for a new product line. It just so happens that Kohan himself is a twin, but the inspiration for the Arnold family is based more on observing a family the creators know, where one of the children mirrors the father and another the mother. Liable to begin and end each other's sentences, the longtime collaborators are smart talkers, just like the characters they create.

"We are really just at the beginning of the learning process of the right way to bring the family together and pull them apart," says Mutchnick. Says Kohan: "You figure out what is vitally important to each character and then figure out a way to disrupt that thing." Rewriting on the fly is natural to them, and they are open-minded to suggestions from cast, crew, and network. "We are like college students," says Mutchnick. "You don't really get the final version of the paper until the night before." (Bridget Byrne, AP)

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