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Columns
'Maybe' we're amazed: WB has finally come up with a funny sitcom

Friday, September 14, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Editorís note: Late yesterday The WB announced it will postpone the premieres of its new programs that are reviewed here. No new air date was given.

With all the well-educated people in Hollywood, it's amazing how difficult it is for them to create a halfway decent sitcom. But that's been a problem vexing the TV industry for several years now: Too many sitcoms, too few laughs.

That's especially true of comedies on The WB, a network that made its reputation with teen-skewing dramas. Finally, The WB has a comedy worth watching: "Maybe It's Me" (8:30 tonight, WCWB).

No "maybe" about it, this single-camera comedy (think "Malcolm in the Middle") is frequently funny, often with a dollop of wacky added for good measure.

At 15, Molly Stage (Reagan Dale Neis) is constantly embarrassed by her family, whether it's her criminally inclined oldest brother (Andrew Walker), her Christian rock-singing brother (Patrick Levis) or her bratty twin sisters, Mindy (Daniella Canterman) and Cindy (Deanna Canterman), someone's always around to ensure her insecurity.

And don't forget her dad (Fred Willard), who's obsessed with girls soccer -- though not in a creepy way -- and her perpetually late, skinflint mother ("What a deal I got on ham! The store's freezer went out, but I'm sure it's fine").

In tonight's premiere, Molly finally catches the eye of the guy she's had a mad crush on for years.

But the fates conspire to make their first dinner with her family a nightmare. Leading the pack is Grandma (Ellen Albertini Dow, the rapping granny from "The Wedding Singer"), who asks the guy at least three times, "So, Nick, how do you like living by the lake?"

As Molly's parents, Julia Sweeney and Willard steal all their scenes. They're true comedy pros who imbue "Maybe It's Me" with enough non-teen stuff to keep parents tuned in.

As Molly, blond Neis is appropriately wide-eyed, but the notion that she's some kind of nerd (she's supposedly president of the chess club) is impossible to believe. She's a beautiful girl, not some ugly duckling. Maybe it's me, but that's the only note that rings false in this otherwise comic series.

"Reba"
(9 tonight, WCWB)

How appropriate that the plot of Reba McEntire's new sitcom is like a country song come to life.

You've got your cheating husband (Christopher Rich), the woman he's sleeping with (Barbra Jean), his disappointed wife (McEntire) and the couple's pregnant teen-age daughter (JoAnna Garcia).

There's nothing subtle about the broad humor in "Reba," a Texas-fried comedy whose outrageousness is sometimes matched by its ability to generate laughs. But only sometimes.

McEntire owns the show. She's a natural sitcom performer with surprisingly good comic timing. But the material she has to work with is what it is: Dysfunction played for laughs, all serious edges worn away by jokes.

"I am so off the drill team," cries pregnant teen Cheyenne. That comes not long after she asks her mom to write her and her high school football player fiance "a permission slip for our honeymoon" so they can miss classes.

"Leave It to Beaver" this ain't.

"Reba" is at its best when McEntire takes center stage. That doesn't happen in the scene where her youngest daughter (Scarlet Pomers, who played young Naomi Wildman on "Star Trek: Voyager") screams "Die, jockstrap!" and attacks her brother-in-law to be.

"Raising Dad"
(9:30 tonight, WCWB)

Painfully unfunny. Sickeningly sappy. Utterly embarrassing.

That's probably not what Bob Saget hoped to hear when he returned to television (especially since his last series, "Full House," probably generated similar reviews), but boy is this show tough to watch. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Widower Matt Stewart (Saget) teaches at the high school his daughter Sarah (Kat Dennings) attends. Being a massive idiot, Matt talks about Sarah's life at home to his students, her peers. Is he brain damaged? Is he cruel? No father could possibly be this stupid/insensitive.

Sarah throws a fit, her sister (Brie Larson) fakes sick and it all ends with cloying hugs and memories of Mom.

Someone, quick, call children's protective services. These kids need help.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to>www.post-gazette.com/tv

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