Tony Jerris has penned a campy sendup of such trash-talking daytime talkshow queens as Sally Jessy, Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones, featuring Charlene Tilton (“Dallas”) as the ever-opportunistic TV maven Veronica. The former Lucy Ewing exudes the requisite pushy tawdriness for the role but is ultimately defeated by the material. Despite the facile, fast-paced staging of helmer Robert Adler, the premise quickly exhausts its comedic potential, proving the old adage that it is impossible to satirize a satire. What does work is the hilarious testament-to-bad-taste TV studio setting of Jay Vetter (production designer of “Like Mike”).
Divided into two segments, the faux talkshow is emceed by the ever-loyal Brad (Brian Kimmet), who enthusiastically interacts with the audience in order to gain their cooperation to shout “Tell Veronica!” whenever the shamelessly exploitative TV hostess forces one of her hapless guests to reveal some juicy scandal about themselves. The opening segment features aged, near-blind former Patsy Cline backup singer Babs, played to the dysfunctional hilt by Lin Shaye. Babs thinks she is going on the show because she needs cataract surgery, but in the true bottom feeder sensibilities of this TV genre, Babs is confronted by the three grown daughters (each by a different dad) she deserted during her many years on the road.
The ladies — April (Tilton’s daughter Cherish Lee), May (Shannon K. Dunn) and June (Shea Alexander) — are properly over-the-top as they chew up the scenery in waves of angst-filled recriminations, but they are poor substitutes for the average guest interactions on “Sally Jessy Raphael.” The episode goes on way too long, only slightly mitigated by a few clever dialogue exchanges. When much put-upon Brad attempts to end the show, butch-to-the-max June points to rotund sister May and proclaims, “The show ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings.”
The between-episode filler consists of Brad conducting a simple Q&A to see if audience members can decipher some clues in order to “Name That Goon.” Their improvisational, interactive efforts to come up with the names Clinton and Condit were more entertaining than the actual show.
The second segment is even less rewarding than the first, focusing on the efforts of pregnant Connie Vermicelli (Donna Cherry) to escape the wrath of her wise guy hubby Nicky (Bruno Amato) and his vengeful mother Rose (Lynda Lenet). Lacking any semblance of focus, the episode is highlighted by the vision of Connie breaking water onstage.
Serving as supposed musical accents to the proceedings are the undernourished musical offerings of the three-member Tell Veronica Band, who serve more as instrument-toting props than actual participants.