Overplaying is generally the stock in trade for “Empty Nest,” and is perhaps also the secret to its longevity. Show’s been running since 1988.
The jokes are broad, with several pie-in-the-face routines, a Hatfield-McCoy feud between the office nurse and a fellow Arkansan, and Dr. Harry Weston’s (Richard Mulligan) awkward moments; but the writers keep trotting them out to satisfying ratings effect. The characters are simplistic, Doug Smart’s direction is routine and the situations are strained in this sampling.
Harry’s daughter Carol (Dinah Manoff), living with dad, welcomes her lifetime best friend, Zoe (Morgan Fairchild), a big-time TV reporter, back home. Oops, Zoe and Harry are attracted to each other. Carol’s upset, and Zoe promises the budding romance will end right there. So much for sitcomland.
Estelle Getty’s around as Sophia Petrillo, a holdover character from “The Golden Girls” who’s a frail twig to hang a snicker or two on, and Marsha Warfield, playing Harry’s associate, Dr. Douglas, looks to be at sea.
Harry’s assistant, Laverne (Park Overall), isn’t much fun here, and Charley (David Leisure) barely gets a nautical foot in the door.
The dialogue’s bland, but the actors plug away at it. Fairchild hands the weary comedy some zest just by her presence, but it doesn’t help much: “Empty Nest” continues to be just that — empty.