Fran Drescher is like borscht. Some people can’t get enough, others gag.

“Living With Fran” will reinforce this. Drescher’s fans will enthusiastically welcome her back in the new WB series, even though it sets the smart bar lower than “The Nanny” did. The rest of America will wisely spare itself.

Fran Reeves married young and divorced in her prime. She might marry young again. This time, however, it will be the groom who’s barely out of the cradle. Fran has fallen for Riley, the contractor working on her bathroom. He’s handsome, chiseled, attentive – and he’s 26, a few years older than her son.

This is 2005, not 1905, so no big deal. That’s Fran’s story. However, she says it so often, you wonder how much she believes it – especially since she has “forgotten” to mention it to her 21-year-old son Josh, who dubs Riley “the goy toy.” Josh has a revelation of his own: He just got kicked out of medical school and is coming home to live.

Riley is appalled Fran tried to hide their relationship from her son. His indignation lasts one episode. In a second, which also airs opening night, Riley’s parents drop in unannounced, just as Josh did. Guess what? Riley hasn’t told them about Fran. Well, he told them about Fran; he didn’t tell them she’s about the same age as his mom.

A subsequent episode will reunite Drescher with “Nanny” co-star Charles Shaughnessy, as Fran’s ex-husband. (Most series wait until ratings go into the tank before resorting to desperate ratings gimmicks.) What are the chances he isn’t going to know about Riley, either?

Can another episode with Fran’s parents be far behind? Talk about a one-note tune.

The only family member cool with the situation is Fran’s 15-year-old, Allison, who just wants to be left alone.

As with “The Nanny,” “Living With Fran” is a single-purpose star vehicle: The supporting players are there solely to set up Drescher’s lines. Not that they have a lot more to offer. Ryan McPartlin has no discernible talent other than his looks as Riley, and Ben Feldman and Misti Traya, as Josh and Allison, could be replaced weekly with the difference hardly noticeable.

McPartlin knows his place. “I was cast in this show before Fran agreed to do it. I heard on the radio about Fran Drescher’s return to TV. I went, “I hope that’s my show,’ because I knew they were going after her. It’s not my show any more. Now it’s Fran’s show.”

“Living With Fran” is not only Drescher’s show, it’s a slice of her life. After the breakup of her marriage to her high school sweetheart, she was in a four-year relationship with a guy 16 years younger. “(The second episode) was loosely based off my personal experience when my ex-boyfriend’s father and stepmom came to visit,” she said. “It turned out she was two years younger than me.”

She didn’t use an incident with her boyfriend’s father, which might have added some spice to the second episode. “He cornered me in a room and said, “What are you doing with him? You should be with me.””

There’s one other difference between life and art. “Living With Fran,” which besides being a lame show is ludicrously misplaced on the youth-worshipping WB, is more likely to last four episodes than four years.


Stars: Fran Drescher, Ryan McPartlin, Ben Feldman, Misti Traya

Airs: 8:30 p.m. EDT Fridays on the WB (a second episode airs at 9:30 p.m. this week)

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