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TV Reviews: Two new NBC sitcoms show little promise

Thursday, March 23, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

"Hammock shows" are the sitcom filler that takes up the space between the reliable, quality programs in NBC's Thursday night lineup.

NBC executives, in their infinite lack of wisdom, insist on giving these plum time slots to inferior series created by people they want to placate.

Most recently "Jesse" (from the producers of "Friends") filled the black hole between "Friends" and "Frasier" and "Stark Raving Mad" (from the producer of "Just Shoot Me") took up space between "Frasier" and "ER."

But that game plan is falling short. Although these shows are watched by millions each week, it's usually millions fewer than the shows that precede them and come after them. For many Americans, 8:30 and 9:30 Thursday nights have come to represent chore time. It's the two half-hour breaks when we do the dishes, walk the dog, etc.

NBC hopes to change that straying mentality with tonight's premieres of "Daddio" and "Battery Park."

"Daddio," airing at 8:30, is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. There's a dearth of family comedies in prime time, but it makes no logical sense to place such a show between the hip "Friends" and the urbane "Frasier."

 
   
TV Reviews

"Daddio"

When: Tonight at 8:30 on NBC.

Starring: Michael Chiklis, Anita Barone.


"Battery Park"

When: Tonight at 9:30 on NBC.

Starring: Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Louis, Bokeem Woodbine, Jay Paulson.

 
 

And yet, there it sits, begging us not to abandon the tube.

Michael Chiklis (formerly of ABC's "The Commish") stars as Chris Woods (a.k.a. Daddio), a stay-at-home father whose wife (Anita Barone) has become a lawyer.

Tonight's pilot finds Daddio adjusting to his new domestic life as his children try to scam him ("Mom always let us") and neighbors question his masculinity. It's a catch-22: People think he can't take good care of his kids because he's a man; he can't be a man because he takes care of the kids.

Maybe "Mr. Mom: The Series" would have been revolutionary back in 1983 when the Michael Keaton movie was released, but 17 years later the concept is as fresh as month-old milk.

The funniest scenes don't come from Daddio's parenting, rather, it's his confrontations with his wife's annoying friend, Barb (Amy Wilson). When she sees the kids playing "Batman," she lectures them, "Has anybody wondered why the Joker is a bad guy? Use our words and tell the Joker we care about him."

Daddio grits his teeth.

Pablum though it is, "Daddio" can't be recommended for kids due to some of the language. There's talk of a pregnant woman toughening up her nipples. Chances are, that's not the kind of TV talk that will lead parents to switch the channel from Nickelodeon.

On the other hand, "Battery Park" doesn't try to be a family show, but it's also at a loss for generating belly laughs. Still, it shows more potential than "Daddio."

Justin Louis stars as compassionate, capable Detective Ben Hardin, who serves as a buffer between the zany detectives in his charge and Capt. Madeleine Dunleavy (Elizabeth Perkins), who cares more about advancement than her current job.

The remaining cops fit old sitcom cliches, including the sole woman, the male partners who bicker like a married couple, the womanizer and the flaky guy.

Gary David Goldberg, responsible for "Family Ties" and "Spin City," returns to NBC as executive producer/co-creator of "Battery Park." The show may be new, but it appears to be constructed from the same blueprints as "Spin City."

The relationship between Ben and Madeleine has echoes of the Michael J. Fox-Barry Bostwick pairing on "Spin City." "Battery Park's" womanizer, Kevin Strain (Robert Mailhouse), could be a cousin to "Spin"ster Stuart (Alan Ruck).

In tonight's premiere, Madeleine plots a future campaign for mayor, hoping to be able to use the slogan, "Safest precinct, safest city." When a Mafia figure gets shot in her jurisdiction, Madeleine orders Ben to fix it.

So far, Madeleine's insensitivity makes for the best moments in "Battery Park." Some of the remaining jokes center on Jennifer Lopez's derriere and whether two of the cops deserve a titanium-plated, amphibious assault vehicle.

Perkins, looking more and more like Margaret Colin ("Now and Again") every day, is totally unbelievable as a police captain. Even the dialogue seems to say, "This isn't a real cop, but a sitcom cop."

In one scene Madeleine encounters the city's "all-time leading crime victim," who becomes a running joke. He asks if she can take his statement.

"Does this look like the haircut of someone who takes statements?" Madeleine replies. Although it's unimaginable that such a glamour-puss would make it to captain of a detective squad, her brash ways do generate a few laughs.

Maybe if the cardboard secondary characters develop more dimensions and if the writing improves, "Battery Park" will have a longevity similar to that of its closest cop comedy antecedent, "Barney Miller." But don't count on it.


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette. com.



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