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TV Review: 'Bernie Mac Show' outrageously honest

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Strict literalists will hate "The Bernie Mac Show." They won't get it.

But for everyone else, "Bernie Mac" is laugh-out-loud funny and joins "Scrubs" and "The Tick" as the best new comedies to premiere this fall.

Mac stars as a variation of himself, a married comedian who takes in his sister's three children. So far, so good.

Unlike the well-meaning but bumbling TV fathers of yore, Mac vents his frustration with more graphic frankness, vowing to 13-year-old Vanessa (Camille Winbush), "I'll bust your head 'til the white meat shows."

"The Bernie Mac Show"

When: 8:30 and 9 p.m. tomorrow on Fox.

Starring: Bernie Mac, Kellita Smith.


To the sour and the humor-impaired, this line of dialogue, in particular, will be an outrage. But it's so obvious Mac doesn't mean it. He's not really going to beat these kids. He says that, too.

"Bernie Mac," the show and the man, are outrageous but honest.

A second episode, airing at 9 p.m. tomorrow, realistically shows what's it's like to play with a 5-year-old. Bernie has to baby-sit with young Bryanna (adorable Dee Dee Davis) when she gets sick. She tells him how to play and won't let him stop playing. He later confesses to the camera that she's "dull as a rock."

Is that mean? Sure. Is it true? Anyone who's played with a 5-year-old knows it is. The important thing is Mac plays with Bryanna even though he's bored because he loves her.

In tomorrow's premiere when the three kids come to live with Mac, he gives them strict instructions not to touch his electronics equipment or his CD collection: "My old school, my new school, my slow jams, my party jams and my happy rap.

"And do not touch my James Brown because somebody gonna get hurt," Mac says with a deadly serious face that's enough to make you bust a gut.

In addition to being filmed single-camera style (think: "Malcolm in the Middle"), "Bernie Mac" features writing on-screen similar to The WB's "Maybe It's Me." In tomorrow's second episode, an extended sequence uses "Pop-Up Video"-style markings to depict how germs are passed around Bryanna's birthday party, leading to illness in Bernie's house.

Mac is a TV natural, with excellent comic timing. He's big, but hardly threatening -- more like a gentle giant with little child-care experience.

"The Bernie Mac Show" won't appeal to everyone, but anyone with a decent appreciation for comedy -- particularly hyperbole used for comic effect -- will beg for more Bernie Mac.

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

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