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Masterpiece Theatre's "Take a Girl Like You" leaves much to be desired.

Take Her and Leave Her

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So what's the deal with Masterpiece Theatre anyway?

Here it is Sweeps Month, when every network is putting on its Sunday Best, and Masterpiece Theatre programs another dud.

This makes two in a row.

Last week it was "Song of the Lark," which was actually a Masterpiece Theatre repeat from an earlier broadcast in its American Collection series. "Song" stank like a pair of a 15-year-old's rattiest sneakers.

And "Take a Girl Like You," which will be broadcast on two consecutive Sunday nights starting this week, is absolutely execrable.

What's happening up there at WGBH in Boston, which originates the series for PBS? Did the Culture Cops quit in a huff?

"Take a Girl Like You" would seem to be a perfect Masterpiece Theatre production. It's based on a comic novel by the talented Kingsley Amis. The characters are British. Much of it is set in a lovely English country house near London. It stars a beautiful newcomer, Sienna Guillory, and the not-too-shabby Rupert Graves.

All of this sounds made-to-order for Masterpiece Theatre fans.

But it's unimaginably awful.

Judging from her performance in "Take a Girl Like You," Guillory will no doubt disappear as fast as she appeared, and Graves gives a performance that is so wooden it rivals a lumberyard.

PBS says the story is about the art of seduction before the sexual revolution. But you can take this much to the bank: There's nothing remotely sexy about this drivel. I lived through the sexual revolution, and I recall vividly what the art of seduction was like back in the 1950s, the period in which "Take a Girl Like You" is set. It was nothing at all like this. Watching amoebas reproduce asexually in biology class in 1958 was more erotic.

Guillory plays Jenny Bunn, a beautiful, virginal teacher who's just moved down from the north of England. Graves is Patrick Standish, a Don Juan who seems to be trapped in a state of permanent priapic lust. She meets him. He sets out to seduce her. She thinks he's the pick of the pack, but she throws up barricade after barricade. Remember, the action is set back in the days when nice girls didn't.

The plot is littered with various other characters who want to bed either her or him, none of whom succeed at much of anything — sort of like the story itself.

So, I hear you asking, how bad could it be? It is, after all, Masterpiece Theatre.

Trust me: It's smells like two-day-old fish. It's as boring as reading the front matter in the telephone book. (Oops: mustn't give Masterpiece Theatre any ideas for future programs.) It's as dull as ditch water. It's as tedious as a cross-country bus ride. It's as mind-numbing as a Best of Suzanne Somers marathon.

I can rest easy now. I've warned you. Watch "Take a Girl Like You" at your own peril.

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