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Perhaps it's the influence of the uber-successful Modern Family but blended and/or dysfunctional households appear to be the comedies du jour, what with Trophy Wife and Mom kicking off the new season. Now we have our own in the form of Step Dave, in which a 24-year-old bartender falls in love with an older woman with three kids. It's a show with a lot riding on it after so many big New Zealand dramas - Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, The Almighty Johnsons - recede into the TV archives after several entertaining series on air.

Step Dave seems like a pretty simple beast compared with those ensembles, and while it has a host of talented cast members its first outing felt as awkward as a blind date. You know those who've set it up can see its potential, but for now all you can think is that its teeth are crooked and so far the conversation isn't as funny as you'd like.

Still, it's an interesting if not entirely original premise and one with a lot of conflict brewing as Dave, the somewhat earnest desperado, and Cara, the reluctant dater, decide to give their unlikely pairing a go.

And with the witty voice of Go Girls/Nothing Trivial writer Kate McDermott behind it, Step Dave could get to second base.


However, despite warm performances from the show's leads, Jono Kenyan and Sia Trokenheim, their chemistry is yet to reveal itself and the characters' supposedly magnetic attraction in the opening scenes is not quite the vicarious thrill it could have been.

With so much to establish, the pilot hurtled along at breakneck speed, hitting more than a few speed-bumps along the way (before we knew it, Dave and Cara were in bed and suddenly the moonboot on Cara's leg, that was there a few scenes earlier, was off).

There were a few cliches to speed things along. During that almost sex-scene Dave scampered off to the living room, stark naked, only to encounter Cara's offspring and her disapproving mother (who were supposed to be in Hamilton, apparently). As poor Dave stood there trying to shield himself, I couldn't help but feel I'd seen those chestnuts before.

The first ep was also marked by haphazard lapses in time. The central couple's relationship supposedly took three hours to develop in an A&E waiting room, but seemed to bubble up out of strangely edited dialogue. Of course, these are some of the techniques used to set up the real story, which feels as though it's really only just getting going. Things began to improve when Dave discovered the truth about Cara, that she's a 39-year-old single mum - a point we all knew was coming but needed to see.

There were touches of McDermott's signature wit that is necessary to carry the show.

"I thought you were 30," said the forlorn Dave, midway through their first real argument. "Really?" said Cara, delighted.

The nasty characters, who explore the neuroses of relationships, are the most fun to watch. Kimberley Crossman is a hoot as the over-eager Stacey, keen to attach herself romantically to anything that pays her attention. Likewise, Cara's passive-aggressive wasp of a sister, Jules, played by the feline Tania Nolan, looks set to throw a few daggers in Dave's direction, and Go Girls' alum J.J. Fong was fun to watch as the snotty Betty.

It's was light, unchallenging, youthful stuff and you get the impression there's more up its sleeve.

Or maybe that's just because the promos look good. One small step for Dave, one giant leap for New Zealand television?

Not quite. But don't unfriend him just yet.

- TimeOut