Housed between “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” new sitcom loaded with zingers and flippant one-liners in for six weeks (with four more ordered) will need the medico and a Ranger to rescue it. “Muddling Through, ” using comic exchanges, brashness and speed, may catch viewers with their laugh levels down.
Connie Drego (standup comic Stephanie Hodge), stuck in prison for shooting husband Sonny (D. David Morin) for two-timing her — he was with twins — comes home to her Oasis cafe and motel to be with teenage daughters Madeleine (Jennifer Aniston) and Kerri (Aimee Brooks).
To her horror, Connie finds that Madeleine married her arresting officer, Duane Cooper (Scott Waara), dimwit who also testified against her at her trial.
More, Sonny’s staying in the back cabin — wittiest part of the sitcom is the reunion of Connie and Sonny.
The rest is brassy, anything-for-a-laugh dialogue fired off under James Widdoes’ direction in near-competitive form. At one point, Widdoes and writer Barton Dean, who concocted the series, involve Madeleine, Cooper and his baton in a crude spot straight from burlesque.
As written, Connie’s the key to the program’s problem, since she’s centerstage. Dean has written some speedy, jokebook dialogue that doesn’t do much to build characterizations; Connie’s a Duracell-driven Mae West destined to bulldoze through any artificial barriers set up for her.
The admirable Stephanie Hodge dominates her scenes through timing and experience, but Aniston’s aptness as daughter Madeleine gives the sitcom much-needed naturalness. Morin’s Sonny as written by Dean earns laughs. Brooks as loose daughter Kerri shows potential. Waara’s stuck with the reach-for-laughs part of Cooper; Cooper’s a low-comedy type used as a stooge.
Secondary characters who unaccountably earn super yocks from the studio audience must be wittier live than they are on TV, where they’re blah.
“Muddling Through” might. Its brassiness, possibilities and sked spot may buy ratings. Production design by Jane Fletcher is solid, and Frank Fitzpatrick’s theme hits the mark.