After a promising start, NBC’s “DAG” runs for cover. Weighed down by a conventional structure and predictable laughs, “In Living Color” alum David Alan Grier comes up short in his first leading-man role, getting few opportunities to highlight his spot-on comic timing. A plum sked slot (Tuesdays at 9:30) will do a lot for this riskless laffer, but anyone expecting “Frasier’s” sophistication and wit to carry over will be wholly unsatisfied.
“DAG” marks the return of Delta Burke to series TV and should have, at the very least, capitalized on her “Designing Women” sass to cop some sort of attitude. And with Grier as a Secret Service agent, potential is certainly there for some sharp political humor and pointed commentary about the black-white balance of power. But NBC has chosen the harmless route, replacing edginess with standard jokes, and turning the White House into someplace that could have been swapped with any other work environment.
Grier is Jerome Daggett, a seasoned pro assigned to the commander in chief’s top squad. Smart and aware, his professional duties change drastically when he jumps the wrong way during an assassination attempt. The monumental blunder gets national coverage, and, in a hilarious montage of newscasters covering the day’s events, the leap is plastered everywhere across the broadcast spectra.
But instead of firing Daggett, President Whitman (guest star David Rasche) uses the screw-up to his advantage: Since he hates his wife, Judith (Burke), why not have this incompetent be her bodyguard?
And what a task that is. Toting around a fluffy dog while remaining completely out of touch with America, Judith Whitman floats by as a willful kook with little to do and even less to say. More consumed with her own clothing than with diplomacy, she uses Daggett as more of a lackey for herself and baby sitter to her daughter Camilla (Lea Moreno Young) than as a bodyguard.
Daggett’s debut assignment is to accompany the first lady to a luncheon. There, he panics again when he doubts the identity of one of the waiters, jumping to his new boss’s rescue even though she’s in no real danger.
Grier has always been able to get a lot of mileage from small roles,and he’s more than capable of creating and carrying the comedy. But the frequently unfunny pilot script, leavened somewhat by John Fortenberry’s fast-paced helming, scarcely scratches the surface of Grier’s talents. Worse, the decision to play Daggett and Judith as straight arrows undermines their character development, leaving “DAG” to blend in with the season’s other shows.
Indeed, it’s Daggett’s collection of burnt-out associates who get the best lines, especially when it comes to the rivalry between the security A team and B team. But that competition, though amusing, is hardly enough to make this a strong fall entry.
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