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The Office Labor Pains

Harper plays an exec secretary at an ad agency, with three other women in the secretarial pool. They do little work and pass time tossing comments to each other, the three agency partners and the resident artist. The format's traditional, the observations generally thin.

With:
Cast: Valerie Harper, Andrea Abbate, Kevin Conroy, Lisa Darr, Kristin Dattilo-Hayward, Gary Dourdan, Dakin Matthews, Debra Jo Rupp, Joseph Tello, Tom O'Rourke. This new Valerie Harper series gets off to a promising start: characters are established, though the dialogue is waiting to be polished. So far, there are a couple of chuckles with an effusive laugh track -- but there's hope thanks to Harper and the cast.

Harper plays an exec secretary at an ad agency, with three other women in the secretarial pool. They do little work and pass time tossing comments to each other, the three agency partners and the resident artist. The format’s traditional, the observations generally thin.

Single Rita Stone (Harper) has worked for married, dependentagency head Frank Girard (Dakin Matthews) for 19 years; always-tardy Beth (Deborah Jo Rupp) works for Natalie (Lisa Darr); dim Debbie (Kristin Dattilo-Hayward) works for bachelor Steve (Kevin Conroy), while sexy Mae (Andrea Abbate) seems to file things and fill in. One of the better characters: Gary Dourdan’s dreadlocked artist Bobby Harold.

For openers, Debbie arrives at the office on time but towing her ailing little boy, a mischief-maker who must be kept hidden. A prospective client arrives amidst the camouflaged mayhem; Debbie (in a good bit) fouls up Steve’s dating calls; Bobby asserts his independence; and Frank blustersin sitcom-boss fashion.

Susan Beavers’ script works the characters into some amusing situations, but has some absurd complications (and the throwing-up bit isn’t funny). Director Jay Sandrich ably works the farce angles in the opener, and Matthews and Harper click together.

Rupp does solid work as Beth, singing out a working moms anthem, and Dattilo-Hayward’swispy Debra has good possibilities. Others have their work cut out.

Though it’s an ensemble sitcom, Harper anchors it, and she’d better get funnier lines and situations; after all, she’s the come-on for the program.

The Office Labor Pains

(Sat. (11), 9-9:30 p.m., CBS-TV)

Production: Taped at Sunset Gower Studios by WT Prods. Exec producers, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Susan Beavers; supervising producer, Jennifer Heath; producer, Gilbert Junger; director, Jay Sandrich; writer, Beavers; creators, Beavers, Barbara Corday.

Crew: Camera, Nancy Sherman; editor, John Michel; production designer, Ken Johnson; sound, Nick South; audio, Rich South; video, Andy Johnson; music, G*N*G Music.

Cast: Cast: Valerie Harper, Andrea Abbate, Kevin Conroy, Lisa Darr, Kristin Dattilo-Hayward, Gary Dourdan, Dakin Matthews, Debra Jo Rupp, Joseph Tello, Tom O'Rourke. This new Valerie Harper series gets off to a promising start: characters are established, though the dialogue is waiting to be polished. So far, there are a couple of chuckles with an effusive laugh track -- but there's hope thanks to Harper and the cast.

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