Having struck out a few years ago with puppet sitcom “Greg the Bunny,” producer Steven Levitan returns with what might be called “Pam the (Playboy) Bunny.” Frankly, the show has just two major assets, and Fox is betting viewers won’t get tired of ogling them until “Stacked” reaches syndication. Although skein’s debut drew respectable numbers against a “Lost” rerun, whether that’s sustainable — and not merely the video equivalent of peeking into the girls’ shower — merits a degree of skepticism.
The premiere wasn’t made available in advance, according to Fox, because of the last-minute cast change in which Elon Gold replaced Tom Everett Scott. The part calls for a lovable loser, though Gold (periodically channeling Don Knotts) comes up short in the former regard. Forgive the cynicism, but given that Fox shields most of its reality programs from critics, there might have been some calculation that Anderson promos would sell the show better than snarky reviews.
Gold plays Gavin, a failed author who won’t even admit he’s divorced, holding out hope of reconciliation. He runs a bookstore with his doughy brother (Brian Scolaro), where the cast of crazies includes a snide barrista (Marissa Jaret Winokur) and a daft professor (Christopher Lloyd, having apparently flown in as his “Back to the Future” character).
Into this quaint little world walks Skyler (You Know Who), looking for a book to explain why she is “so attracted to bad boys,” having interrupted the rock star she’s dating in the midst of a nonmusical trio.
Of course, with Anderson’s well-documented personal history, none of this is much of a reach for the former “Baywatch” babe, who actually dabbled in comedy in the syndicated “V.I.P.” and, way before that, “Home Improvement.”
Still, Marilyn Monroe she isn’t, and aside from her curves there’s not much to the character, who mostly serves as a three-dimensional prop for bug-eyed stares — including, a bit creepily, Gavin’s lascivious young son, who pops in with his mom (the well-traveled Paget Brewster).
“Way to go, dad!” the kid enthuses when apprised, in one of those sitcom ruses we all know and love, that Skyler is Gavin’s new girlfriend.
Skyler opts to stay and take a job at the bookstore, because, well, the sets have been built and Fox won’t expand “American Idol” to 15 hours a week until the May sweeps. Besides, it’s always nice to air a show that Howard Stern can be counted upon to discuss for a good half-hour.
As writer, director and exec producer, Levitan clearly isn’t attempting to break any new ground, and for all the innovation here the producers could have extended the first image — featuring Anderson in front of a wind machine — by 20 minutes or so. Even Tommy Lee exhibited more creative daring in his celebrated production featuring his ex-wife, despite a shoestring budget.
However unintentionally, two peripheral moments stood out within Wednesday’s telecast. One was an ad featuring Anderson for a product that makes one’s lips look fuller, the other a local-news tease regarding the government hearings on silicone breast implants.
There’s no doubt that Anderson is a marketable commodity, the face and figure that launched a thousand magazine covers. If nothing else, let’s applaud her for leveraging that cachet to try her hand at a scripted series, as opposed to leaping directly to “Chasing Pamela.”