Review: ‘Cleghorne!’

Filmed in Los Angeles by Pepoon, Silverman, Sustarsic Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producer, Steve Pepoon; co-executive producers, David Silverman, Stephen Sustarsic; producers, Nancylee Myatt, Coral Hawthorne; director, Stan Lathan; script, Pepoon, Silverman, Sustarsic; camera, Mark Levin; editor, John Doutt; production designer, David B. Sackeroff; sound, Bruce Peters; music, Tom Rizzo. Cast: Ellen Cleghorne, Garrett Morris, Alaina Reed Hall, Steve Bean, Cerita Monit Bickelman, Michael Ralph, Sherri Shepherd, Ronald William Lawrence. One of the brighter lights to emerge (or escape) from the past few seasons of "Saturday Night Live," Ellen Cleghorne comes to the Warner Bros. Network with more than just a sitcom tailored to her standup act. Everybody who's come within a block of the Comedy Store has one of those, it seems, but only Cleghorne has her own exclamation point: "Cleghorne!" Ellen's parents and sister seem cast for their contrasting physical types, rather than any appearance of being an actual family.

Filmed in Los Angeles by Pepoon, Silverman, Sustarsic Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producer, Steve Pepoon; co-executive producers, David Silverman, Stephen Sustarsic; producers, Nancylee Myatt, Coral Hawthorne; director, Stan Lathan; script, Pepoon, Silverman, Sustarsic; camera, Mark Levin; editor, John Doutt; production designer, David B. Sackeroff; sound, Bruce Peters; music, Tom Rizzo. Cast: Ellen Cleghorne, Garrett Morris, Alaina Reed Hall, Steve Bean, Cerita Monit Bickelman, Michael Ralph, Sherri Shepherd, Ronald William Lawrence. One of the brighter lights to emerge (or escape) from the past few seasons of “Saturday Night Live,” Ellen Cleghorne comes to the Warner Bros. Network with more than just a sitcom tailored to her standup act. Everybody who’s come within a block of the Comedy Store has one of those, it seems, but only Cleghorne has her own exclamation point: “Cleghorne!” Ellen’s parents and sister seem cast for their contrasting physical types, rather than any appearance of being an actual family.

Lanky Ellen is surrounded by towering mother Lena (Alaina Reed Hall), relatively diminutive father Sidney (Garrett Morris) — any similarity to “The Jeffersons” probably isn’t accidental — and stay-at-home sister Victoria (Sherri Shepherd), who dreams of being a model. Michael Ralph is featured as Ellen’s ex-husband, Jamaican cabby Tyrell, and Steve Bean is Brad, Ellen’s partner in what’s billed as a commercial production company — so why are they writing copy?

Much of the goings-on are as unlikely as little Akeyla’s familiarity with “Rain Man.” Ellen is trying to avoid her mother but gives her a key to the apartment; a door is broken through the two apartment’s walls without Ellen having been consulted first.

Sidney is as devoted to his work with the post office as “Cheers’ ” Cliff Clavin was. “Big day,” he gushes. “Brooklyn’s got a brand new ZIP code!” Still, it’s good to see Morris back on TV again.

Potentially sharp running gag finds Tyrell blaming society for his economic woes, which Ellen will have no part of: “The white cab drivers make twice as much as I do,” he sneers. “You know why?” To which she rejoins “Because they work more than two days a week?”

Tyrell dismisses Ellen’s current boyfriend, Harley (Ronald William Lawrence), who is one-sixteenth white. Harley isn’t bothered by Tyrell; after all, he reasons, “my people have oppressed his people for 200 years.”

Aside from a noticeably wobbly wall on one set, show looks OK.

Cleghorne!

(Sat. (9), 8:30-9 p.m., WB Network)

Production

So far, that exclamation point is the most exciting aspect of the show. Though Cleghorne has personality to spare, she's jammed into a standard sitcom storyline full of generic characters. Ellen Carlson is the smart, motivated single mother of precocious pre-teen daughter Akeyla (Cerita Monit Bickelman), starting a small business in New York as her smothering parents move into the apartment next door.
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