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Hearts Afire

For the second season, John Hartman (John Ritter) and new wife Georgie Anne Lahti (Markie Post) take the show on the roads and settle into John's boyhood burg, which unsurprisingly has changed since he used to buy cherry Cokes. Using a mess of TV references, planted joke lines and running gags, program shifts uneasily into a small-town domestic fray; a half-hour would suffice.

For the second season, John Hartman (John Ritter) and new wife Georgie Anne Lahti (Markie Post) take the show on the roads and settle into John’s boyhood burg, which unsurprisingly has changed since he used to buy cherry Cokes. Using a mess of TV references, planted joke lines and running gags, program shifts uneasily into a small-town domestic fray; a half-hour would suffice.

John’s sons (Justin Burnett, Clark Duke) are along to round out the family move from Washington, D.C. John’s pal, saving grace Billy Bob (Billy Bob Thornton), joins them to find his own mom, Velma (Maxine Stuart).

John’s bought the town newspaper, with Billy Bob as partner. The office comes with a desperately outrageous character, psychologist Madeline (Conchata Ferrell).

Ritter’s John tries seeing the bright side of the grim move home, but people won’t let him. Supposedly cosmopolitan Georgie Anne, tossing off flippant comments, doesn’t fit in and knows it. The kids are understandably cranky at first, while Billy Bob’s damnably (and funnily) objective.

Returned series needs sharper dialogue, cleverer laughs that aren’t telegraphed and genuine humor based on characters, not smart remarks.

Ritter, a solid farceur, finds himself strapped in this first episode, and Post seems in search of a character. Writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has penned a mechanical opening chapter with booby-trap jokes salted along the way; director Harry Thomason finds everyone of them.

Tech credits are generally good.

Hearts Afire

(Wed. (27), 8-9 p.m., CBS-TV)

  • Production: Filmed in Studio City by Mozark Prods. and Adam Prods. Exec producers, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Harry Thomason, Bob Myman; co-exec producers, David Nichols , Don Rhymer, Ty King; producers, Doug Jackson, Tommy Thompson; co-producer, Rebecca Parr Cioffi; director, Harry Thomason; writer-creator, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.
  • Crew: Camera, Jim Roberson; editor, Bill Lowe; art director, Ken Johnson; sound, Larry Lasota; music, Bruce Miller.
  • Cast: Cast: John Ritter, Markie Post, Billy Bob Thornton, Justin Burnett, Clark Duke, Conchata Ferrell, Doren Fein, Maxine Stuart, Howard French, Doris Hess, Jordan Benedict, Jacob Richardson.
  • Music By: