“Conrad Bloom” is bland as they come, rather like a glob of pizza dough without the sauce or cheese (and just as pasty white). It tells the story of a harried New York City ad copywriter named Conrad (Mark Feuerstein), a single fella who is pretty much dominated by the cadre of females swarming around him. The effect is not unlike being boiled alive in a vat of estrogen. Except that our hero doesn’t seem to notice. He’s too busy being affable, accommodating — and dauntingly dull.
Most everyone seems to want a piece of this poor guy, forcing Conrad to base his existence around making nice and sacrificing his own needs. He gets all of the anxiety of being with all these women and none of the joys. It’s kind like loading the bases and putting Mark McGwire up to bunt.
At least Steve Landesberg is around to elevate the modest laugh quotient a notch or two. Landesberg is in top sly form, portraying George Dorsey, a spacey burnout of an adman who was a legend in the 1970s, becoming Conrad’s idol. Now, he’s slacking it and surviving on his associate’s reflected ambition. Not that Conrad has all that much time to do anything except deal with the demands on him posed by the ladies.
The women include wholesome ex-girlfriend Molly (Lauren Graham), his wiggy sister Nina (Ever Carradine), his recently-widowed, annoying mother Florie (Linda Lavin), the new-mom co-worker Shelley (Jessica Stone), his ballbusting boss Faye (Paula Newsome) and, in the pilot, Allison (Christina Moore), a nubile, patient woman whom Conrad is desperately trying to get into bed.
Exec producer Marco Pennette’s premiere script is long on exasperated angst, short on humanity and laughs. Pennette is at least fortunate to have helmer extraordinaire James Burrows around to direct the pilot. He brings a sense of style to a show that makes you want very badly to stand up and scream, “Get away from that poor man already, will you? He needs a little space, for crying out loud!”
No such luck. Feuerstein is a likable enough zhlub, though his terminal sensitivity seems to recall a different era, one that predates the term co-dependency. Simply put, “Conrad Bloom” gives us a man who would be wise to change his identity and a group of women who need to 12-step themselves straightaway into Conrad Anonymous.
Sandwiched as “Conrad” is between “Suddenly Susan” and “Caroline in the City” on Monday nights, NBC can now lay claim to the most vanilla 90 minutes of primetime this side of TGIF. The age of Musn’t-See TV is at hand.