CBS-TV's new "That's Life" 

The School of Life

There's something sweet and gentle, and, at the same time, strong and determined about Lydia DeLucca on CBS-TV's new "That's Life."

Lydia is a 32-year-old Italian girl from Jersey whose best friends since high school are a smart-mouthed beautician and a former Miss New Jersey who's still clinging to the memories of her moment in the spotlight back in 1988. Meanwhile, Lydia spent all of her 20s — and her virginity — on a cave-man boyfriend who promised they'd pool their incomes and send her to school once they'd tied the knot. Now he tells her he thinks her goals are foolish — she should stay home and have babies — so she's dumped him and used her savings to enroll at Montclair College.

Slowly, painfully, she's finding out that her street smarts give her as much of an edge as the book smarts her 19-year-old fellow freshmen bring to class. Those scores of part-time jobs she's had, from driving a taxi to what she does now (serving drinks at the Afterlife Bar and Grill, across the street from a cemetery), stand her in good stead.

But it's the cast as much as the plot that gives "That's Life" its winning edge. Newcomer Heather Paige Kent brings the perfect mix of tentative optimism and blue-collar grit to the show's starring role. And the rest of the cast is made up of veterans who know how to nail a character dead-solid perfect: Paul Sorvino as Lydia's father, Ellen Burstyn as her mother, Debi Mazar as her hairdresser friend, Kristin Bauer as the former beauty queen, Kevin Dillon as Lydia's policeman brother and Sonny Marinelli as her ex-fiancé.

Lydia is hellbent on making something of herself in life. And "That's Life," likewise, just may make something of itself on Saturdays at 8

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