The center of “Phenom” is a disturbed family headed by insecure divorced mother Dianne Doolan (Judith Light) whose spoiled 15-year-old daughter Angela (Angela Goethals), one of four kids, has the makings of a top tennis player. Luckily vain, maddening pro tennis coach Lou Del La Rosa (William Devane) steps onto the court; faced with this dismal clan, he’s an ace.
The coach, who runs a tennis academy, phones Angela after seeing her play. He sends her an egotistical, amusing videocassette demonstrating his facility and talents. Angela, not known as self-conscious or disciplined, goes for it, but Dianne, who woos rather than disciplines her children, tells Angela she’d rather have her grow up like a normal girl, not like a tennis star.
That, of course, should be the end of it, but not in sitcomland, where youngsters sound off or manipulate their parents into doing their bidding. Devane’s loudmouthed Del La Rosa breezes in like a zephyr to clear the air, and the Doolan family slowly raises its collective head.
Light’s Dianne comes off as well meaning, while Goethals’ Angela needs severe guidance before she’s human, much less amusing. Todd Louiso plays teenage brother Brian, who’s retreated into numbness; Ashley Johnson is little sister Mary Margaret, who makes mischievous phone calls. It’d sure be interesting to meet Mr. Doolan.
It’d also be interesting to see if the bragging, shouting Del La Rosa, a solid comic character, can teach Angela discipline, manners and modesty. He may have met his match.
It’s Devane’s show. He pumps vitality into the otherwise lusterless Doolan household where wrangling and pleading are the order of the day. Without him there’d be no game.