Pittsburgh, PA
Wednesday
April 16, 2014
    News           Sports           Lifestyle           Classifieds           About Us
A & E
 
Tv Listings
The Dining Guide
Movies
Travel
Headlines by E-mail
Home >  A & E >  TV/Radio Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
Columns
On the Tube: When kids are the center, 'Oliver Beene' entertains

Friday, March 07, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Fox's new comedy "Oliver Beene" doesn't get off to a promising start. Of three episodes sent to critics for review, Fox is premiering the weakest one first.

 
 
Review

'Oliver Beene'

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

STARRING: Grant Rosenmeyer, Wendy Makkena, Grant Shaud, Andrew Lawrence

   
 

That's a shame, because "Oliver Beene" (8:30 p.m. Sunday) has improved since Fox sent the show's original pilot to critics last summer (that episode will air at some point in the series' run) and is less crude than what's emphasized in previews.

Set in 1962 Rego Park, Queens, the series obviously owes its existence to its lead-in, "Malcolm in the Middle." But "Beene" strives for a tone closer to, say, "A Christmas Story." It rarely reaches that level, but when episodes focus on the kids, it comes close.

Grant Rosenmeyer stars as 11-year-old Oliver Beene, who lives in an apartment with his dentist father (Grant Shaud, "Murphy Brown"), homemaker mother (Wendy Makkena, "Sister Act") and dimwitted older brother, Ted (Andrew Lawrence).

Sunday's premiere finds the family attempting to ingratiate themselves at a snooty country club. None of the characters come off well, particularly Oliver's greedy father and desperate-to-be-liked mom.

Future episodes give more time to Oliver and his friends, brainy Joyce (Daveigh Chase) and destined-to-be-gay Michael (Taylor Emerson).

In one episode, Oliver and Ted are left home alone without a baby sitter for the first time. When the situation turns from bad to worse, Michael tap dances an S-O-S signal on the kitchen floor, but Joyce suggests he just call the police. "Honey," Michael says, "you have no flair for the dramatic."

Oliver's penny-pinching dad gives him a phone number where he can reach them in case of an emergency, but it's long distance.

"Don't call unless someone's dead," Dad says, "and even then, let it ring twice and hang up."

Unlike NBC's "American Dreams," issues relevant to the period setting don't course through "Oliver Beene," but are sometimes employed to good effect.

In an upcoming episode, the first African-American student arrives at Oliver's school just around the time Oliver determines he needs a new image and sets out to become a daredevil. He jumps off a playground swing, soars over a wall and promptly lands on the new kid, who thinks he's being attacked.

Oliver gets branded a racist and his parents try to resolve the controversy by inviting the African-American family over for dinner, which leads to further misunderstandings as the adult Oliver (narrator David Cross) reminds viewers.

"Oliver Beene" breaks no new comedic ground, but when its focus is on the children, it's an amusing half-hour.


Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

Back to top Back to top E-mail this story E-mail this story
Search | Contact Us |  Site Map | Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy |  Advertise | Help |  Corrections