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The Pursuit of Happiness Celebrations in Hell

Filmed at Paramount Studios by Grub Prods. and Paramount Network TV. Exec producer, Dave Hackel; director, David Lee; creator-writer, Hackel; camera, Ken Lamkin; editor, Robert Souders; art director, Roy Christopher; sound, Klaus Landsberg; music, Bruce Miller; production designer, Wendell Johnson. TX:Cast: Tom Amandes, Melinda McGraw, Brad Garrett, Larry Miller, Maxine Stuart, Meredith Scott Lynn, Anthony Russell, John Demita, Edith Fellows. Creator-writer Dave Hackel, a writer-producer on "Wings" for 122 episodes, brings in "The Pursuit of Happiness," which strains too much. Helped by a good cast, "The Pursuit of Happiness" buckles under the weight of the obvious. Life's rough on Steve, who has been working with near-charity cases because his wife, Mac (Melinda McGraw), makes a mint and he could afford to be altruistic. But Mac, who's got a sneaky way of telling bad news, deals directly with this one when she comes by the office: She's been fired.

Filmed at Paramount Studios by Grub Prods. and Paramount Network TV. Exec producer, Dave Hackel; director, David Lee; creator-writer, Hackel; camera, Ken Lamkin; editor, Robert Souders; art director, Roy Christopher; sound, Klaus Landsberg; music, Bruce Miller; production designer, Wendell Johnson. TX:Cast: Tom Amandes, Melinda McGraw, Brad Garrett, Larry Miller, Maxine Stuart, Meredith Scott Lynn, Anthony Russell, John Demita, Edith Fellows. Creator-writer Dave Hackel, a writer-producer on “Wings” for 122 episodes, brings in “The Pursuit of Happiness,” which strains too much. Helped by a good cast, “The Pursuit of Happiness” buckles under the weight of the obvious. Life’s rough on Steve, who has been working with near-charity cases because his wife, Mac (Melinda McGraw), makes a mint and he could afford to be altruistic. But Mac, who’s got a sneaky way of telling bad news, deals directly with this one when she comes by the office: She’s been fired.

Alex announces he’s been gay all his life, and Mac announces that her disaster-prone brother Larry (Larry Miller) is coming to live with them.

Hackel, whose credits also include “Dear John,” breaks the first chapter into segs repping each character’s birthday. Jean, who seems to have overdosed on “Cheers’ ” Carla, reluctantly goes first; watching her wash her armpits isn’t amusing. Amandes as Steve proves a likable enough fall guy. Attractive McGraw is OK as the less-than-sympathetic Mac. Garrett’s Alex is acceptable — a phone call to his mom has chuckles — while Miller’s maddening brother is an annoyance.

Nice touches: Longtime actress Maxine Stuart plays Steve’s grandmother in a retirement home, and 1930s teenage film luminary Edith Fellows shows up as one of her fellow residents.

New sitcom’s temporarily opposite “Coach,” follows “Frasier.” But “Happiness” isn’t down this route.

The Pursuit of Happiness Celebrations in Hell

(Tues. (19), 9:30-10 p.m., NBC)

Production: Lawyer Steve Rutledge (Tom Amandes) shares a Chi practice with best friend Alex Chosek (Brad Garrett) and caustic secretary Jean (Meredith Scott Lynn), whose early, overdone entrance is a clue to the overplay ahead. Director David Lee has his characters toss off their lines with an air of expectancy, with Steve reporting the action on the soundtrack.

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