Cafe Americain

Valerie Bertinelli debuts in a series about Minneapolis divorcee Holly Aldridge, who hits Paris with the idea of bowling the town over, which she almost does because she's such a klutz. The lean comedy strains to please, and the strain shows; looks like Holly will soon be back in Minnesota.

With:
Cast: Valerie Bertinelli, Maurice Godin, Graham Beckel, Jodi Long, Sofia Milos, Lila Kaye, Peter Spears, Lilyan Chauvin, Barry Dennen, Lena Pousette, Francoise Bush.

Valerie Bertinelli debuts in a series about Minneapolis divorcee Holly Aldridge, who hits Paris with the idea of bowling the town over, which she almost does because she’s such a klutz. The lean comedy strains to please, and the strain shows; looks like Holly will soon be back in Minnesota.

Holly, with a job translating American idioms for a French firm, has a hole in the wall for an apartment. Her only refuge would seem to be the Cafe Americain — a weak takeoff on Harry’s New York Bar — where she gets a job after a series of unfunny mishaps.

The bistro is owned by Margaret Hunt (played by a restricted Lila Kaye). Too bad Kaye doesn’t have more to do, since she earns the only real laugh with shtick about drying her hands.

As for the other characters, writer Peter Noah falls back on determined eccentrics and habitues: Graham Beckel’s Steve Sullivan, longtime Paris resident who dislikes the city; Jodi Long as an angry, royal widow of a chief of state; Maurice Godin’s Marcel, a Frenchman who takes a liking to Holly, and Sofia Milos as a self-centered fashion model. Lilyan Chauvin has a good start as Holly’s firm landlady.

Director James Burrows can’t pull much out of the lame script, which includes freeze-framing while Holly explains how she feels, and Holly videotaping a letter home to her sister. The devices annoy more than they communicate.

Bertinelli’s Holly, whose outfits look like they were run up by loving hands at home, is purposeful if not interesting. Program’s intro shows her tossing her hat in the air a la Mary Tyler Moore — and dropping it. Just so.

Too many characters are cliches, but Kaye’s firm, authoritative Margaret Hunt stands out. Marion Ross was brought in temporarily to play the role, but it went back to Kaye, where it belongs.

Cafe Americain

(Sat. (18), 8:30-9 p.m., NBC)

Production: Filmed at Warner Bros. by Peter Noah Prods. and Warner Bros. TV. Exec producers, Jack Grossbart, Peter Noah; producer, Pamela Grant; director, James Burrows; writer-creator, Noah.

Crew: Camera, Ronald W. Browne; editor, Jay Scherberth; art director, Jane Fletcher; sound, Robert Crosby; music, Roger Bellon.

Cast: Cast: Valerie Bertinelli, Maurice Godin, Graham Beckel, Jodi Long, Sofia Milos, Lila Kaye, Peter Spears, Lilyan Chauvin, Barry Dennen, Lena Pousette, Francoise Bush.

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