The premise of “Up to No Good” might have just taken some heat off “Murphy Brown.” Dan Quayle can rail all he wants about “Murphy,” but family values take a real mugging in this sitcom, and there isn’t a single mother in sight. Unfortunately for Murphy, ABC passed on the sitcom for its fall schedule, so its pilot was unloaded last week.
The show revolves around a con artist who insinuates himself into the good graces of a writer’s family for sole purpose of ripping them off. This is not the kind of idea that translates easily into big laughs. To pull it off, you would need some mighty clever writing and a lead character with a lot of charisma.
This is not the case in “No Good,” which has an unfortunate title, perhaps foreshadowing its summer toss-off fate. That’s not to say that Trevor Eve, who plays British con artist Freddie Paddington, doesn’t give it his best shot.
Looking like a young Michael Douglas, he exudes a certain charm that makes his character likable despite the dishonest intentions. On the surface, at least , it is not entirely a stretch to see this smooth talker ingratiating himself with a group of complete strangers.
Unfortunately, he and his fellow cast members are strapped with tepid dialogue to go along with the marginal plot and pat ending.
The main drawback is the writing. In the first scene, Paddington enters the party of wealthy novelist Iris Cloverdale (June Lockhart in what amounts to a cameo role) with his eye on making her financial load a little lighter.
In an attempt to charm her, he tells her, “I adored your book.” After she asks which part he likes the best, Paddington replies, “Why, your picture, of course.” And that’s about as funny as it gets.
After this, show boils down to a series of predictable transpirings. Paddington thinks the way to novelist Cloverdale’s pocketbook is through her loner grandson (Brian Bonsall), whom he promises to teach how to ride a horse. Turns out that cad Paddington really falls for the kid, which puts him on the straight and narrow–at least momentarily.
That’s the hook with which the writers hoped to keep viewers interested.
Eve brings what little spark there is to this pretty punchless enterprise. It’s too bad for him, as it would take a lot more conning than Eve’s character has inhim to get audiences–or, apparently, ABC–to buy the product.