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New series reviews: The Knights of Prosperity and In Case of Emergency (ABC)

Dolts, Incorporated: Donal Logue and David Arquette keep screwing up in ABC's The Knights of Prosperity and In Case of Emergency. The comedies debut Wednesday at 8 and 8:30 p.m. (central time).

It's going to be loser night on ABC -- ratings-wise and otherwise.

The network's two newest comedies, The Knights of Prosperity and In Case of Emergency, celebrate the timeless ineptitude of the male species, with a shapely babe thrown in as a bauble atop their dunce caps. Premiering Wednesday (Jan. 3rd), their chances of success are sub-scant or less in a time slot that once belonged to Lost and lately is a halfway house.

In Case of Emergency, lesser of the two, at least is aptly titled. This indeed is an emergency for ABC, which had hoped to keep the serial drama Day Break in place until Lost returns on Feb. 7. But the Nielsen numbers said otherwise, prompting ABC to throw these two into the breech while moving Lost back an hour (to 9 p.m. central time). It's starting to look like bad planning all around, even if a later Lost will give local late night newscasts a booster shot.

Knights of Prosperity (8 p.m.), which used to be called Let's Rob Mick Jagger, had been part of ABC's fall schedule until the network rebooted. Off-kilter but also off-putting, it stars Donal Logue as hapless career janitor Eugene Gurkin.

"It's my 20th anniversary of doing this crappy job," he proclaims while cleaning urinals.

Gurkin dreams of owning his own bar, but is basically penniless. So he concocts a plan to rob Mick Jagger's apartment while watching the old Rolling Stone showcase his digs on the E! network. Jagger has several moderately amusing cameos in the first episode, but hasn't committed beyond that. Even so, he's listed as one of Knights' executive producers, along with David Letterman and Rob Burnett (producer of Letterman's CBS Late Show). Knights' theme song is by Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer.

Gurkin quickly recruits a band of fellow misfits after pep-talking them in front of a vintage poster of Loni Anderson in a bikini.

"I was born with a plastic fork -- in my ass! Just like the rest of you," he bellows.

OK, got it.

Gurkin's gang members at least are inventively named. There's loudmouth Francis "Squatch" Squacieri (Lenny Venito); easily irked Gourishankar "Gary" Subramaniam (Max Jobrani); nebbish Louis Plunk (Josh Grisetti) and terminally hungry Rockefeller Butts (Kevin Michael Richardson). The last recruit is saucy waitress Esperanza Villalobos (Sofia Vergara), who basically is the show's Loni Anderson.

Knights is funny in spots and also gets by without a laugh track, as does In Case of Emergency. Still, the preposterous premise already is wearing very thin by Episode 2. So is the caliber of the cameos, with Mick Jagger giving way to Sally Jessy Raphael.

ABC's followup act is harder to bear. A quartet of 1987 high school grads haphazardly reconnect at a time when their lives are sloppy messes. But In Case of Emergency is an even sloppier mess, with none of its four central characters worth rooting for or caring about.

Harry Kennison (Jonathan Silverman), a divorced greeting card writer, is first seen getting a massage parlor hand job from a woman who turns out to be his graduating class's valedictorian. She's Kelly Lee (Kelly Hu), whose regularly showcased bare midriff at least bears a little watching.

Meanwhile, financier Jason Ventress (David Arquette) is caught up in a corporate scandal. Facing possible imprisonment, he drops into a gun shop to buy a pistol he plans to put to his head.

"I'm gonna blow my brains out," says Jason.

"I've got just the thing," says the proprietor.

Oh, that is so not funny, particularly in these times. But Jason instead shoots himself in the foot, prolonging both his misery and ours.

The fourth misfit is diet guru Sherman Yablonsky (Greg Germann from Ally McBeal), whose Eating for Mommy is a big bestseller. Alas, he returns to his palatial pad to find it stripped bare by his wife, who's dumping him. This sends Yablonsky into a pastry-eating binge that's caught on tape after he steals a bakery truck.

The first two episodes are top-heavy with physical humor and assorted cuts, bumps and bruises. Silverman's character sustains a broken nose from Kelly's brutish boyfriend, who's a cop. Arquette takes a bedpan to the head and Germann has to wear an eye patch after being swatted by a purse in Episode 2.

Through it all, Silverman chews scenery with a zeal almost matched by Germann's re-addiction to junk food. He seems to think he's Jack Lemmon in a wacky feature. But it's the show that's a lemon, overreaching, over-acting, over-everything.

As with Knights of Prosperity, you wonder where this show is going. The easiest answer is off the air by February. Wednesday's twin premieres are assured of finishing no better than fourth in a time slot opposite CBS' Criminal Minds, NBC's Deal or No Deal and Fox's presentation of the Sugar Bowl game between Notre Dame and LSU.

That kind of start will ensure a quick finish for both of 'em.

Grades: Knights of Prosperity -- C; In Case of Emergency -- D