Its also almost completely awful. Then again, so was that first pilot, and so is the following episode, to boot. Despite some endearingly nasty performances by a first-rate comedy troupe, Public Morals looks like an excuse to show foolish people behaving extremely poorly with each other, with the vice squad context merely laying on a sneering, leering veneer. Character doesnt appear to have any place at this table. Characters do, however. Public Morals is loaded with characters who spend each half-hour sniping at each other. At the top of this food chain is the new lieutenant, played with unabashed clownish abandon by Peter Gerety as a teeth-sucking, pratfalling buffoon whose voice sounds like its been squeezed through a loaded vacuum cleaner bag. Geretys ably supported by Julianne Christie as the officer who gets to dress up as a hooker a lot; Donal Logue as the resident Neanderthal; Jana Marie Hupp as the second-in-command; and the rest. Moreover, the show is skillfully directed by Don Scardino, a Molly Dodd veteran whose theater skills are apparent in the strong pacing, and the ensemble spirit everywhere in evidence. So far, however, Public Morals lacks any hook for a viewer to grab onto, any entry into this dopey world or reason for wanting one. Like Tarses last entry, 1993s quickly yanked Black Tie Affair, its feel-bad TV.

Its also almost completely awful. Then again, so was that first pilot, and so is the following episode, to boot. Despite some endearingly nasty performances by a first-rate comedy troupe, Public Morals looks like an excuse to show foolish people behaving extremely poorly with each other, with the vice squad context merely laying on a sneering, leering veneer. Character doesnt appear to have any place at this table. Characters do, however. Public Morals is loaded with characters who spend each half-hour sniping at each other. At the top of this food chain is the new lieutenant, played with unabashed clownish abandon by Peter Gerety as a teeth-sucking, pratfalling buffoon whose voice sounds like its been squeezed through a loaded vacuum cleaner bag. Geretys ably supported by Julianne Christie as the officer who gets to dress up as a hooker a lot; Donal Logue as the resident Neanderthal; Jana Marie Hupp as the second-in-command; and the rest. Moreover, the show is skillfully directed by Don Scardino, a Molly Dodd veteran whose theater skills are apparent in the strong pacing, and the ensemble spirit everywhere in evidence. So far, however, Public Morals lacks any hook for a viewer to grab onto, any entry into this dopey world or reason for wanting one. Like Tarses last entry, 1993s quickly yanked Black Tie Affair, its feel-bad TV.

Public Morals Cbs, Wed. Oct. 30, 9:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Steven Bochco Prods., in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Created by Bochco and Jay Tarses; executive producer, writer, Tarses; supervising producer, Richard Dresser; produced by Stephen C. Grossman; producer, Dayna Flanagan; co-producer, Lisa Albert; director, Don Scardino; director of photography, Ken Lamkin; production designer, Paul Eads; story

Crew

Editor, Matt Tarses; creative consultants, Marc Flanagan, David Milch; associate producer, Mark Petulla; editor, Leslie Tolan; casting, Liberman/Hirschfeld, Sharon Klein; music, Mike Post. 30 MINS.

With

Cast: Donal Logue, Julianne Christie, Justin Louis, Jana Marie Hupp, Joseph Latimore, Lawrence Romano, Bill Brochtrup, Peter Gerety. The creator of such series as Buffalo Bill ,The Slap Maxwell Story and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Jay Tarses holds a special place in the hearts of TV critics, if not necessarily the broad Nielsen universe of viewers. Tarses doesnt just tweak the sitcom form, he spooks it with shows that defy its conventions by celebrating character over content, and for his sins hes done a lot of time in network purgatory. Now hes linked up with Steven Bochco, and Public Morals would seem to be a perfect Tarses project: Given viewers affection for explicit police dramas like NYPD Blue, why not give the genre a raunchy comic spin with a sitcom about the Gotham vice squad? The original Public Morals pilot, with its now-famed reference to the pussy patrol, made CBS nervous enough to encourage a reworking, and though theres plenty of rude language left to singe sensitive ears, the debut is a considerably tamer affair.
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