Actor-comic Steven Banks brings his generation-specific sensibility to PBS via Brandon Tartikoff’s first collaboration with the web. Closest parallel may be with Ben Stiller’s late Fox vehicle, which may mean that Banks, too, is too hip for the room — even if PBS is an even smaller room than Fox.
In addition to being the name of this eight-seg series and his earlier stage vehicle, “The Steven Banks Show” is what Banks (or his character) performs in his apartment — it’s sort of a one-man vehicle for his ’60s- and ’70s-rooted fantasies.
Into this world — a”Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” for adults — come an assortment of characters, most of them played by regulars Teresa Parente and Michael Kostroff.
First episode finds Banks at a rock memorabilia auction, successfully bidding on what he believes to be John Lennon’s guitar. It turns out to be something else, but Banks has a good time displaying his ability to ape all four Beatles; especially good is a bit where he relives the band’s entire history with a set of vintage dolls.
Along the way are knowing (if somewhat easy) shots at Deadheads, Michael Bolton, Menudo and Yoko Ono, many of them gags that will be lost on those with a life outside pop music trivia.
Parente and Kostroff are versatile actors, and Banks himself is an appealing personality. Peter Tork of the Monkees makes an amusing cameo appearance.
Most off-putting aspect of show is a laugh track that’s annoying even by conventional sitcom standards, with one shrill woman’s cackle particularly grating (hope it isn’t Banks’ mother). Isn’t PBS supposed to be above such crass effects?