Ace comedienne Bonnie Hunt gets another shot at a series, and this one may make the cut — at least for 13 episodes. With its David Letterman imprimatur (he’s one of the exec producers), the show leans toward his brand of twisted hyper-reality humor. Series doesn’t quite want to exploit its comic primogeniture, but if it’s to find the hip audience that really (desperately) wants an alternative to ABC’s powerhouse “TGIF” lineup, “The Bonnie Hunt Show” should milk the Letterman association and the spirit of his humor for all it’s worth.
Hunt plays TV reporter Bonnie Kelly from Wisconsin, who takes a job as a reporter of brites in the major market of Chicago.
Inconsistently written pilot intros supporting cast, including the station’s racy makeup artist, Holly Jankofsky (Holly Wortell); cameraman Tom Vandoozer (Tom Virture); strictly business managing editor Bill Kirkland (Mark Derwin); his tyrannical secretary Diane Fulton (Janet Carroll); zany neighbor Keith Jetzek (Don Lake); bizarre videotape editor Andrew Wiggins (Eamonn Roche); and the singing coffee guy Sammy Sinatra (Brian Howe). Pilot lamely starts out with the small-town-gal-in-the-big-city shtick, with Hunt being kicked around the newsroom andfinally being shown kindness by strangers, who evolve into sidekicks. Show’s gimmick kicks in when Bonnie is given a back-to-school assignment for the 5 o’clock newscast.
Her taped report, obviouslyimprovised, has Bonnie asking gradeschoolers, “What kind of car do you drive?” and “Do you like potato chips?” and is hilarious — it could work on “Late Show With David Letterman,” which, of course , is the point.
Hunt and her co-exec producers must have seen the uniqueness of the situation: She’s a reporter, the taped bits on Letterman are the funniest things on that show and bingo! And it works. (In the second episode, managing editor Kirkland suggests a piece on pizza, and Bonnie once again supplies a very funny bit.)
The cast’s chemistry is bright and relaxed; their improvisational bits are pro and fun to watch.
Hunt’s a terrific performer and she does her best with the average material. Rest of cast — especially Wortell, Lake and Virture — fires on all cylinders as well. Taped show looks good, but inconsistently apes feel of TV news camera shots.
Writers (including Hunt) send in a fast-paced but not terribly funny or smart script that doesn’t know what it wants to be: conventional (which doesn’t work) or intelligent yet goofy (which does).
Second episode (with Hunt as solo scripter) threatens to break into a wacky, the-wheels-have-come-off superreality, but it disappointingly percolates below the surface.