Moving into its second season, now following “Frasier” in NBC’s lineup and without having to contend with “Roseanne” as competition, “The John Larroquette Show” is undergoing some basic structural changes. Whether the growing pains result in an improvement remains to be seen.
Now sober and divorced for a year, St. Louis bus station night manager John Hemingway (Larroquette) is moving to a nicer apartment. Across the hall is Catherine Herrick (Alison LaPla-
ca), a night nurse whose hours are remarkably similar to Hemingway’s own. When John tells his pals at the bus station that he’s at last found a woman, co-worker Mahalia (Liz Torres) assumes he’s speaking of hooker Carly (Gigi Rice). So, for that matter, does Carly, who’s given up her night job after a night with Hemingway. She’s beginning to feel something again. (As the season progresses, she’ll buy the bar adjacent to the terminal.)
Nobody’s left the series, so all the regulars are comfortable in their positions (Bill Morey, a semi-regular as Oscar the homeless man, is now a regular). LaPlaca joins after two seasons opposite Tom Arnold, so she can hold her own against a strong lead while maintaining an attractive and intelligent presence.
Script, by creator Don Reo and Judith D. Allison, is a bit more contrived than usual — as episodes marking cast changes often are — but dynamics should return soon. First dinner date between Hemingway and Herrick is a strong piece of writing, sensitively and humorously handled under John Whitesell’s direction.
Whether toning down of Rice’s character helps with the ratings at the expense of show’s humor is an open question, but lazy cops Hampton and Eggers (Lenny Clarke, Elizabeth Herridge) are still a hoot.