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TV Reviews: WB debuts hyper 'Hype,'iffy 'Nikki'

Sunday, October 08, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Like a spastic child with attention deficit disorder, The WB sketch comedy "Hype" hops all over the place, airing more than 10 skits in 22 minutes.



When: 10 tonight on WCWB.

Starring: Jennifer Elise Cox,

Frank Caliendo.


When: 10:30 tonight on WCWB.

Starring: Nikki Cox, Nick von Esmarch.


And you never know if the show will land on laughs or trip itself up in calculated crudeness. Sometimes it's clever and crude, but more often than not it leans in one direction or the other.

Take the opening skit: a dead-on Bryant Gumbel impersonator uses WB-deprecating humor ("WB, it's short for Why Bother? Nobody is watching anyway") to introduce the show. But then it's followed by a lame "Hype Report" (Firestone tires blow up) and a plain offensive faux commercial by the U.S. Alliance of Pro Golfers that assures players the next Tiger Woods will be white.

Funny skits include "Dead Hollywood Squares" (dead celebrities play on the game show), "E-Mail Addresses" (corporate executives share their personal e-mail addresses, including freakonaleash@earthlink.net) and "American Beauty Fun Meal" (last year's Oscar-winning film gets made into a fast food restaurant kids' meal in a hilarious spoof of the oh-so-serious movie).

Even when a "Hype" sketch is tasteless, it doesn't last long. The show has a "Laugh In"-like pace that will probably seem tame to MTV viewers. But a hyper "Hype" needs to be more consistently funny or it will fail to live up to its own, uh, hype.


Oversaturated with dramas, The WB is making a big push to get successful sitcoms on its schedule. This from the network that thought highly enough of "The Army Show" to give it a Sunday night berth a few seasons ago.

I'm happy to report "Nikki" is no "Army Show." The concept of "Nikki" sounds trite, but the execution is at least amusing in two out of the first three episodes.

Nikki Cox stars as a dancer who falls for a big lug, Dwight (Nick von Esmarch), who dreams of a career as a professional wrestler. A flashback in tonight's sweet-natured pilot shows them meeting -- she's a misunderstood vixen, he's an 18-year-old virgin who's uncomfortable in his own skin.

The casting fits the characters. Cox is an experienced actress, having starred on The WB's modestly successful "Unhappily Ever After" and last season on "Norm." Until "Nikki," von Esmarch worked in a video store. They complement one another well, and there's a naturalness to their rapport that can't be faked.

"Nikki" works best when Nikki and Dwight band together against Dwight's controlling mother (Christine Estabrook), but I wonder if that dynamic will grow old. Then again, one episode sent for review that the shrewish mother wasn't in was without a center because there was no force for these crazy kids to combat.

Every episode of "Nikki" opens with a lavish Las Vegas-style production number. Tonight Nikki struts around in a Godzilla costume. In the third episode, she gets beheaded on stage as Marie Antoinette. Bruce Helford created "Nikki," and it's clear from his work on "The Drew Carey" show that he's a fan of song and dance numbers.

But it's the writing that will ultimately make or break "Nikki." If Helford can come up with series-sustaining stories, "Nikki" might have staying power. But cute a couple as they are, I already started losing interest in Nikki and Dwight after watching three episodes.

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