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Reba McEntire returns to television tonight with ABC’s new comedy series “Malibu Country,” which premieres at 8:30 p.m.
TV review

Reba singing a familiar tune

But ‘Malibu Country’ off key with lame, unclear stories

Fans of the 2001-07 sitcom “Reba,” take note: Your favorite show is back, sort of.

ABC’s new sitcom “Malibu Country” (8:30 p.m. today) is essentially the same show as “Reba,” down to its star (Reba McEntire), plot (Reba’s on her own with kids; her ex is her foil) and executive producer (Kevin Abbott). So it’s derivative, unimaginative and altogether lame.

This time around, McEntire stars as a country music singer named – wait for it – Reba, who put her music career on hold for the sake of her country music-legend husband. Now her husband is embroiled in scandal for cheating on Reba.

At a news conference where Reba is expected to “stand by her man,” she instead blurts out, “He’s a moron and I’m leaving his lying, cheating butt.”

She packs up her mother, Lillie Mae (Lily Tomlin, “Damages”) and her teenage kids – shallow himbo Cash (Justin Prentice) and not-so-popular June (Juliette Angelo) – and moves the whole clan from Nashville, Tenn., to a Malibu home that once belonged to her ex.

Reba gets spooked by her perky new neighbor, Kim (Sara Rue, “Less Than Perfect”), who quickly attempts to worm her way into Reba’s life.

Reba’s even more flustered by Kim’s stepson, Sage, who she catches kissing her daughter even though he’s supposedly gay. (It’s not at all clear from the “Malibu Country” pilot if Sage is actually gay or just pretending to be in order to get into June’s pants. But ABC’s news release states Sage is “an openly gay neighborhood boy who embraces his sexuality,” sort of a surprise since the pilot suggests otherwise.)

Newly single, Reba attempts to jumpstart the country music career she put on hold to raise her family. But it’s an uphill battle when a prospective music agent refuses to meet with her and she’s left to chat with his curt assistant, Geoffrey (Jai Rodriguez, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”).

If there’s any bright spot in “Malibu Country,” it should be the presence of Tomlin as a pot-loving granny. But she’s given such dreadful dialogue – “I just saw a pelican poop,” Lillie Mae says while stoned on a marijuana lollipop – that her presence seems like a waste of Tomlin’s considerable talent. No reason to begrudge Tomlin a payday, but couldn’t she find any better material to work with?

“Malibu Country” will be paired with sophomore sitcom “Last Man Standing” as ABC executives attempt to re-establish a TGIF-style feel on Friday night.

It’s not a terrible strategy, but did they have to do it with such terrible shows? (Of course, even in the ’80s, TGIF was no bastion of quality, so maybe the question is moot.)

“Malibu Country” has one or two clever moments – particularly when Reba’s ex says because of his sin he’s suspending his “These Vows Are Sacred” tour – but truly funny lines of dialogue are the exception. Lousy writing and stale characters rule in “Malibu Country.”