Will everybody love Brian? CBS certainly hopes so as it launches this TV news sendup (following “Everybody Loves Raymond” on the retooled Monday sked) in which silliness subs for sophistication. That ain’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly when your ringleader is the long underappreciated Benben — an exasperated everyman for the ’90s. His show looks promising at first blush. Unfortunately, pitted as it is against “Monday Night Football” and “Ally McBeal, ” fame and fortune may still have to wait a while longer.
Benben of course starred, generally with fewer clothes, in HBO’s long-running hit “Dream On,” where he played a child of TV whose imagination runs wild with memories of tube images past. In “The Brian Benben Show,” he’s still TV-obsessed as a happy-talk Los Angeles anchorman (also named Brian Benben) who is forced to adapt when he and his co-anchor get booted permanently out of their chairs in favor of a couple of clueless twits with better hair and whiter teeth.
The male half of the new Ken-and-Barbie news team, Chad Rockwell (Charles Esten), is fresh from a veejay gig on VH1. And he’s not real tactful. But Brian’s boss explains that Chad and partner Tabitha Berkeley (Lisa Thornhill) tested off the charts in answer to the question, “Who would you most like to screw?”In exec producer Robert Borden’s pilot teleplay, Benben (who himself has a co-executive producer credit here) finds his character tabbed to replace the bow-tied human interest reporter dweeb (Steven Gilborn) after he is mauled and killed while covering an ape exhibit at the zoo. It’s way beneath a journalist of his TelePrompTer reading ability, but Brian has no choice but to take his place. And in the opener, his first assignment makes for a hilariously over-the-top interchange with a couple of eccentric older ladies.
We see the building blocks of a love interest for Benben with a next-door neighbor who is trying entirely too hard (Susan Blommaert). Benben’s pair of wiseacre on-air colleagues (Luis Antonio Ramos, Wendell Pierce) are unmemorable.
Benben himself has the goods. He knows how to milk a line without forcing things. The nearly insurmountable challenge is whether his show can compete in a timeslot shared by dancing babies and football players.
Tech credits are solid.