Eagerly anticipated Tom Arnold sitcom comes across as a hybrid of the old Dick Van Dyke Show and “Buffalo Bill.” And that’s not bad at all. Show merits its plum spot in ABC’s sked.
Behind-the-scenes look at TV with characters and situations that ring of truth compares favorably to Garry Shandling’s similarly themed HBO series, “The Larry Sanders Show.”
Arnold plays Jackie Thomas, infantile and ill-mannered star of his own sitcom , a ratings hit despite the constant turnover of production staff–if Jackie hasn’t fired them, they’d have quit in despair.
Into this maelstrom comes new head writer Jerry Harper (Dennis Boutsikaris), with a string of credits including “Barney Miller,””Taxi” and “Cheers.”
Thomas immediately asserts his power by insisting that Harper write Thomas’ TV son (Breckin Meyer) out of the series via a bloody car crash.
Series cleverly circumvents potential problem of having a too-negative leading character by using writer Harper as the stable center, and having Thomas perpetrate his
biliousness from the sidelines.
Significantly, Jackie Thomas doesn’t even appear onscreen until well into this premiere episode; until then, anticipation builds. Character is helped, too , by keeping Thomas the butt of everybody’s jokes (as was Tom Arnold’s thick-witted “Arnie” on “Roseanne”); his lack of seriousness about himself is pretty engaging. It’s also easy to see how the goofy Jackie would appeal to an audience unaware of (or oblivious to) his off-screen conduct.
Supporting cast is well-chosen: Alison LaPlaca as Harper’s levelheaded assistant; Michael Boatman, Paul Feig and Maryedith Burrell as the wisecracking writing staff; and Martin Mull as the show’s network liaison, a former NBC VP who tried to cancel “Cheers” in its second season (“A bunch of slobs sittin’ around a bar–who knew?”).
Jeanetta Arnette, who plays Thomas’ TV wife, is here listed as a guest star; what that means in terms of how much of the fictitious series is shown is yet to be revealed.
The script, by the Arnolds and Brad Issacs, snaps along; Andrew D. Weyman’s direction and all tech credits are pro.