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Tuned In: 'O'Malley Show' is lacking in laughs

Tuesday, September 21, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Of the nine traditional sitcoms premiering this fall, you won't find one as easy to dislike as NBC's "The Mike O'Malley Show."

Premiering tonight at 9:30 p.m. for what's sure to be a short run, this generally unfunny sitcom casts unknown writer/actor Mike O'Malley as a 30-year-old guy who frequently talks to the camera about what's going on in his life.

Trust me, you won't care.

O'Malley lives in a bachelor pad with his aptly named friend Weasel (Mark Rosenthal) while trying to keep his more mature friend Jimmy (Will Arnett) from getting married. Then lo and behold, O'Malley's soulmate, Shawna (Missy Yager), comes back into his life.

This sitcom tries to be a macho man show, but mucks it up by grafting on mushy monologues about O'Malley growing up emotionally. I'm sure it's possible to do both well, but that doesn't happen here.

While the guy stuff is good for a few inappropriate laughs (O'Malley refers to a "weird self-mutilation chick, who, by the way, still owes me a corkscrew"), but it's mostly a bore.

During the TV critics press tour this summer, a recently departed NBC executive said NBC's entertainment president hates O'Malley's show. After tonight, he won't be alone.



"Mission Hill" (9 p.m., WCWB)

Slacker comedy was so 1992.

That doesn't stop The WB from premiering this animated comedy about scruffy twentysomethings who live in a bohemian section of an unnamed city.

Oh sure, the nose ring and tattoo set is alive and well, but most have become industrious. The slackers of the early '90s got jobs with America Online or started their own Web businesses. Now they're cashing in their stock options and retiring as millionaires before they turn 30. That's the Gen X comedy still waiting to be written.

In "Mission Hill," Wallace Langham gives voice to Andy French, a 24-year-old wannabe cartoonist who sells mattresses to make ends meet. He's appalled when his suburban parents move to Wyoming and foist his teen-age brother on him.

Kevin (voice of Scott Menville) is a nerd trying desperately to attain cool status now that he lives with his big brother in the city. He's shocked by Gus and Wally, the gay couple upstairs, and happy to meet fellow nerds at school who also have pretend girlfriends that conveniently live abroad.

With the addition of Kevin, Andy's apartment becomes even more crowded. Already he lives with Jim (Brian Posehn), an animated Kramer, and the airheaded Posey (Vicki Lewis).

Like most new shows this season, "Mission Hill" is needlessly crude, using words I'm not allowed to write in a newspaper.

As animation goes, "Mission Hill" has a surprisingly bright look for a show about slackers. Bright colors dominate, with an emphasis on boxy shapes.

Beginning Oct. 8, "Mission Hill's" regular time slot will be Friday at 8 p.m., which should ensure its quick death since slackers will be busy slacking away from the TV on Friday nights.



"Once and Again" (10 p.m., WTAE)

If you're divorced...

If you're a parent...

If you liked "thirtysomething"...

You'll probably enjoy "Once and Again."

For the rest of us, well, "NYPD Blue" will be back in November.

That's overly dismissive, but I wanted to be clear up front: This show won't appeal to everybody. But it is one of the better new dramas this fall, and compared to the other two shows debuting tonight, "Once and Again" is a masterpiece.

Sela Ward stars as Lily Manning, a recently separated mother of two.

Billy Campbell plays Rick Sammler, a father of two who's been divorced for three years.

They meet dropping their kids off at school, and by the end of tonight's premiere they go on their first date.

Ward shines, as always, and it's intriguing to see her play a character so different from her role on "Sisters." Lilly craves safety, fears the future and is a bundle of insecurity in general. Rick is more sure of himself, but he can't quite figure out how he's gotten to where he is in his life.

We know they feel this way because both Ward and Campbell speak directly to the audience, a trend that's gotten out of hand. "Once and Again" makes it even more pretentious because these scenes are shot in black and white (somewhere someone's already dreaming up a "Once and Again" parody).

Realistic reactions from Rick's and Lilly's kids stand out. Lilly's daughter, Grace (Julia Whelan), comes across as a less secure Angela Chase, the lead character on "My So-Called Life," also from "Once and Again" producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.

Grace is a chip off the old block, but even more insecure. Many will see her as a whiny annoyance, but her self-centered reactions are typical of an adolescent.

"Why can't they keep their private lives private without dragging innocent bystanders into it?" Grace says of her mom and Rick when she sees Rick's son, Eli (Shane West), at school.

"Once and Again" will air in the "NYPD Blue" time slot until November, at which point "Once" goes on hiatus until "Monday Night Football" wraps up in January. That seems like a risky proposition. If ABC's not careful, the one good show premiering tonight may land in the cast-off heap with deserving failures like "O'Malley" and "Mission Hill."



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