The phone never stops ringing at the TV desk. Usually it's a publicist who wants me to write about some cable channel special. (During network premiere week? Don't make me laugh!) Sometimes it's a reader asking why the wrong listings are in TV Week. (Answer: The networks, especially cable, make last-minute changes after TV Week is printed.) Occasionally it's the persistent caller who thinks I have the power to schedule a meeting with network executives to scold them for showing too much sex and violence. (I have no such power.)
But earlier this year, I picked up the phone and got a surprise.
"Do you need a junior critic?" the young-sounding voice asked.
It's not every day someone volunteers to do work for you. But Jason Wynne of Penn Hills was doing just that. Much as I'd like to hire the help some days, I don't have money for that in my budget. Actually, I don't even have a budget.
But Jason came to mind when NBC announced its new fall series, "Tucker," about a 14-year-old boy.
Jason is 14 and a freshman at The Linsly School in Wheeling, W.Va. He was happy to offer his own review of "Tucker." Here it is:
"Tucker" (8:30 tonight, WPXI) is a show for the family. The star is a funny, personable 14-year-old son whose mom is newly divorced.
Tucker (Eli Marienthal) and his mom (Noelle Beck) move in with his evil aunt (Katey Sagal), who wants to make his life miserable; a demented cousin (Nathan Lawrence), who lives to torture him; and a high-flying pilot uncle (Casey Sander).
These characters, though colorful, add little oomph to the show. But on behalf of us 14-year-old male kids, Tucker's beautiful next-door neighbor (Alison Lohman), who he is mad about, makes his character quite believable.
This is a show with some comedy and some laughs, but the only real bright spot is Eli Marienthal, the show's lead. This brash comedy is entertaining yet certain to be short-lived, which is unfortunate for this young, talented star. This show would not keep me glued to the TV.
Jason's a smart kid. "Tucker" will be lucky if viewers don't run screaming from the room.
But I disagree that this is a family show. It wants to be, but given the erection joke in the first few minutes of tonight's premiere episode, I can't imagine parents and kids feeling comfortable watching together.
Filmed single camera-style without a laugh track or studio audience, "Tucker" is an obvious and odious "Malcolm in the Middle" rip-off.
When Tucker's aunt thinks she's caught him watching her undress, she tattles to everyone. He begs her to keep quiet so he won't be known as "the neighborhood perv," but his reputation precedes him when he meets the cute girl next door. She sprays him with water from a garden hose.
"We were just getting to what fellow inmates like to do to cute young deviants in the big house," she says.
"Did you say cute?" Tucker asks, hopefully.
Cute, this show is not. Since when did jokes about what goes on in prison constitute family programming?
Families should stick to "7th Heaven."
Thank you, Jason, for your review. The kid shows promise, far more promise than "Tucker."
Rob Owen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum .