Filmed in Los Angeles for Witt/Thomas Prods., in association with Warner Bros. Executive producers, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Gary S. Levine. Executive producers, Don Reo, Rhea Perlman; writer, Reo; director, James Burrows; associate producer, Joe Catania, production designer, Michael Hynes; director of photography, Richard Brown; A working woman who spent years managing the loading dock at an appliance warehouse and who has become widowed at an early age, Pearl applies to a local college, and to her amazement gets in. She’s older, gruffer definitely an uncultured pearl and, of course, more experienced than the rest of the students, a predictable cross-section of suburban types at what looks in the exterior shots a lot more Ivy League than commuter college. Her success at academic matriculation provokes the consternation of her divorced son and child, who’re suddenly looking at an end to free housekeeping and babysitting.
Pearl is the kind of person who puts the telephone handset in the blender todrive a point home, and she meets her match in a sadistic, arrogant humanities professor, played with some relish by Malcolm McDowell. Or maybe the point is that he meets his match in Pearl. They have in common a lack of superego.
What happens between them is very familiar: The professor knocks down Pearl several rungs on the self-esteem ladder; she quits, recoups and eventually manages to show him up in front of the class. They reach some form of rapprochement as friendly antagonists? Not very credible, though in truth, little about “Pearl” is credible (how about the beauteous co-ed with a predilection for changing outfits in public spaces?).
But maybe “Pearl” is just trying too hard. Perlman’s character is actually pretty likable, and there’s some promise in the students she meets, in a Sweathogs-against-the-world sort of way. There’s also a friendship with her sister-in-law, played by the always lovable Carol Kane, that should soften some of Pearl’s edges in upcoming episodes.
Veteran director James Burrows brings an expected polish to the proceedings as well as an underlying sympathy for the central character that goes a long way toward raising her at least a little above the level of cliche. Now, if the writers would stop pushing the one-liners so relentlessly and trust the characters a little more, “Pearl” just might develop into a class worth attending.