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FALL TV PREVIEW: New series -- Life is Wild (The CW)

The blended Clarke brood hits the road in South Africa.

Premiering Sunday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. (central) on The CW
Starring: Leah Pipes, Andrew St. John, D. W. Moffett, Stephanie Niznick, K' Sun Ray, Mary Matilyn Mouser, David Butler, Calvin Goldspink, Atandwa Kani, Tiffany Mulheron, Precious Kofi
Produced by: Michael Rauch, Charlie Pattinson, George Faber

Filmed entirely in South Africa, The CW's Life is Wild should look a lot more picturesque than it does.

Maybe the review copy sent to critics will be brightened up by the time it hits the air Sunday night. Otherwise you're going to see a pair of faded jeans instead of a show that should be flaunting some flying colors. ABC's new Pushing Daisies is sometimes almost blindingly bright. Life is Wild looks as though it's used too much bleach.

The premise is similar to Everwood, which didn't make the cut when The WB and UPN morphed into CW last fall. A doctor Dad, this time a veterinarian instead of a surgeon, transplants a blended family from Manhattan to the wilds. A stepson with a manhole-sized chip on his shoulder spews invective. But they're gonna make it after all. This brood has spunk.

D.W. Moffett, a belated replacement, plays the very congenial Danny Clarke, whose wife died three years ago. He's since married Jo (Stephanie Niznick), a divorce lawyer who spawned Jesse (Andrew St. John), only to see him later expelled again -- from school. She also has a cute little daughter named Mia (Mary Matilyn Mouser).

Danny's blood kids are good-natured Katie (Leah Pipes), who's also the show's narrator, and her little brother, Chase (K 'Sun Ray). Life is Wild also throws in a cranky, oft-drunk grandpop named Art (David Butler). He more or less runs the dilapidated Blue Antelope Lodge in South Africa, where Katie's now deceased mom lived until she couldn't live with Art anymore.

Pipes invests Katie with a good deal of natural appeal. So much so that it's a wonder she isn't fronting a Disney Channel sitcom. The rest of the show pretty much sags around her. Even the various animals look a little pooped.

Life is Wild also mixes in a friendly would-be veterinarian named Tumelo (Atandwa Kani) and the imported British Banks twins -- rascally Oliver (Calvin Goldspink) and snooty Emily (Tiffany Mulheron).

At best the show looks looks both harmless and unexceptional. But it will get no lead-in help at all from CW ratings bomb Online Nation, which couldn't even be called comatose with 690,000 viewers nationally for last Sunday's premiere.

Life is Wild could triple that audience and still not crack Nielsen's weekly top 100 programs. Suggested retitle: Life is Short.

Grade: C