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TV Review: 'Wednesday' starts off a bit heavy with humor

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Everybody is lying."

That's all new television executive David Weiss (Ivan Sergei) needs to know about the TV business, according to a colleague in tonight's premiere of the ABC satire "Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)."

"Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)"

WHEN: 9:30 tonight on ABC.

STARRING: Ivan Sergei, Ed Begley Jr.

A related article

'Wednesday' starts off a bit heavy with humor


Lying, or the less harsh-sounding "spinning," runs rampant in television. Clearly there's some humor to be mined from the dark depths of show biz, but "Wednesday" isn't up to the task.

Tonight's premiere begins with crude jokes and a strange obsession with gays and Jews in Hollywood that carries over to a future episode. One joke is understandable, but "Wednesday" pounds away at it until all humor is decimated.

Newcomer David most recently worked at a theater in Minneapolis, and IBS owner Red (John Cleese), a Rupert Murdoch stand-in, thinks David can bring Midwestern sensibilities to IBS that will help its programs connect with average Americans.

Hiring someone from the theater world to be a network exec? That would never happen in the real Hollywood, but the fish-out-of-water thing works for a sitcom. It would work better if Sergei weren't so bland. Earnestness is one thing, a lack of charisma is another.

David works for network programming president Paul Weffler (Ed Begley Jr.), who's in a constant state of panic that he'll be fired. There's also shallow, mean executive Lindsay (Melinda McGraw) and scheming executive Mike (James McCauley), who converted to Judaism to advance his career and in a future episode pretends to be gay so he can make a "100 Most Powerful Gay People in Television" list.

After some initially rude dialogue in the early minutes of the first episode, "Wednesday" gets into a pretty funny groove, skewering the TV industry with jabs at the insular nature of the business, the egos of actors and tokenism in lieu of true diversity.

David meets Joanne Walker (Sherri Shepherd), a black woman who in five months rose from a secretary to vice president of programming. David asks if it bothers her to be hired to fulfill a diversity mandate.

"You know when I'm gonna have a problem? When I see a black woman in a wheelchair come through that door," Joanne says.

It's a funny line, but it brings to mind the far superior TV satire "Beggars & Choosers," which featured a black woman in a wheelchair as a network intern. Television is ripe for spoofing, but "Wednesday" begs to be as smart, clever and wildly funny as "Beggars."

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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