George Wendt is back in sitcomland as George Coleman, who, with brother Dan (Pat Finn), hosts an informal weekly radio auto-tip program; the first samples of their exchanges are ace stuff. However, the program veers off to George and Dan spending most of the first episode ridiculing their religious upbringing; snide isn’t comedy.
George joins in as Dan yammers about their parochial upbringing, about manipulative Father McRudy (George D. Wallace) and about a nun (Cynthia Mason) who disciplined Dan.
The brothers attend a Catholic benefit aimed at making dough to send orphans to camp, and Dan has a great time taking all the winnings. Next day George works on him about giving the money back, and they visit Father McRudy’s office, where they surreptitiously amuse themselves with religious objects.
The irreverent aspects will weigh in heavily in homes where religion is still considered sacred. David Regal’s script — with mean, even vicious comments about, and actions toward, the Catholic Church — misses out not only on taste but on humor.
Director Rick Beren pumps up the ugliness, particularly in the priest’s office. The ultimate sitcom test: The laughs, which spark the earlier moments of “The George Wendt Show,” die fast.
Wendt’s role, played with all the drive of his Norm of “Cheers,” is passive compared to Finn’s loudmouthed Dan. Mark Christopher Lawrence plays respectful mechanic Fletcher, and Kate Hodge is femme mechanic Libby.
Brian Doyle-Murray limns Finnie, a recurring character who wanders into the brothers’ garage. Wallace plays the sly priest with restraint.
Program better leap back to the quality of the episode’s opening gambits when the brothers gab with radio listeners. Otherwise, “Wendt’s” in trouble. As for Wendt himself, too bad he had to step out of Norm and down so far from that corner stool for his debut stanza.