Review: ‘The Brian Benben Show’

Will everybody love Brian? CBS certainly hopes so as it launches this TV news sendup (following "Everybody Loves Raymond" on the retooled Monday sked) in which silliness subs for sophistication.

Will everybody love Brian? CBS certainly hopes so as it launches this TV news sendup (following “Everybody Loves Raymond” on the retooled Monday sked) in which silliness subs for sophistication. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly when your ringleader is the long underappreciated Benben — an exasperated everyman for the ’90s. His show looks promising at first blush. Unfortunately, pitted as it is against “Monday Night Football” and “Ally McBeal,” fame and fortune may still have to wait a while longer.

Benben, of course starred, often in stages of undress, in HBO’s long-running hit “Dream On,” where he played a child of TV whose imagination runs wild with memories of tube images past. In “The Brian Benben Show,” he’s still TV-obsessed as a happy-talk Los Angeles anchorman (also named Brian Benben) who is forced to adapt when he and his co-anchor get booted out of their chairs in favor of a couple of clueless twits with better hair and whiter teeth.

The male half of the new Ken-and-Barbie news team, Chad Rockwell (Charles Esten), is fresh from a v.j. gig on VH1. And he’s not real tactful. But Brian’s boss explains that Chad and partner Tabitha Berkeley (Lisa Thornhill) tested off the charts in answer to the question, “Who would you most like to screw?”

In exec producer Robert Borden’s pilot teleplay, Benben (who has a co-executive producer credit here) finds his character tabbed to replace the bow-tied human interest reporter dweeb (Steven Gilborn) after he is mauled and killed while covering an ape exhibit at the zoo. It’s way beneath a journalist of his TelePrompTer reading ability, but Benben has no choice. And in the opener, his first assignment makes for a hilariously over-the-top interchange with a couple of eccentric older ladies.

We see the building blocks of a love interest for Benben with a next-door neighbor who is trying entirely too hard (Susan Blommaert). Benben’s pair of wiseacre on-air colleagues (Luis Antonio Ramos, Wendell Pierce) are unmemorable.

Benben himself has the goods. He knows how to milk a line without forcing things. The nearly insurmountable challenge is whether his show can compete in a timeslot shared by skinny lawyers and hulking football players.

Tech credits are solid.

The Brian Benben Show

Sitcom; CBS, Mon. Sept. 21, 9:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Warner Bros. TV in association with CBS Prods. Executive producer, Robert Borden; co-executive producer, Brian Benben; producer, Pamela Grant; director, Andrew D. Weyman; writer, Borden.

Cast

Brian Benben - Brian Benben Beverly Shippel - Susan Blommaert Chad Rockwell - Charles Esten Kevin La Rue - Wendell Pierce Billy Hernandez - Luis Antonio Ramos Tabitha Berkeley - Lisa Thornhill Freddy Fontaine - Steven Gilborn Heddy Bolinski - Pat Crawford Brown Betty Bolinski - Jeanette Miller Chelsea - Melody Rogers Gladys - Loma Scott Stage Manager - Adam Borstein
Art director, John Schaffner; camera, Richard Brown; editor, Richard Schwadel; music, Mark Heyes; sound, Russ Gary; casting, Barbara Miller, Anthony Sepulveda. 30 MINS.
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