You’d think the disastrous Paul Verhoeven pic “Showgirls” pretty much put the nail in the coffin on films and series about Las Vegas performers. Yet the Frog web takes a chance on that rare breed of dreamers with its new Sunday night laffer, “Nikki.” Created by Bruce Helford, the patron saint of blue-collar comedies (“Roseanne,” “The Drew Carey Show”), sitcom has a heart of gold, but ends up delivering no big laughs and leaving no lasting impressions.
Pilot helmer Gerry Cohen efficiently sets up the premise: bright-eyed and bushy-tailed dancer Nikki (Nikki Cox, a veteran of “Norm” and “Unhappily Ever After”), meets future husband Dwight (newcomer Nick von Esmarch) at a party, hitches a ride with him out West, and convinces him to ditch plans for college to join her in Vegas. The fact that she’s a knockout probably helps Dwight make up his mind very quickly, and he declares his new dream is to become a WWF wrestler. Ah, to be young, ambitious and willing to do almost anything for your 15 minutes of fame.
The opener finds Nikki performing at the Golden Calf Hotel, a cheesy low-rent joint that bases dance numbers based on far-fetched concepts such as Godzilla and the French Revolution. Meanwhile, Dwight has to deal with the humiliating fact that his boss has decided his stage name should be Crybaby.
Key to the success of such a show is the chemistry between Nikki and Dwight, and that’s where Helford and company have hit the bull’s-eye. There’s a sweetness about the relationship between this couple that transcends the moronic plot devices and annoying WB laugh tracks. Cox and von Esmarch, who was reportedly “discovered” at a videogame store, are quite good at convincing the audience that their unconditional love and support for each other will help them survive the awful predicaments the writers throw their way.
Support characters, especially Dwight’s manipulative mom (Christine Estabrook), and Nikki’s airy fairy boss Arturo (Arturo Brachette), are straight out of Sitcom Writing 101.
Future weeks find Nikki dealing with a visit from her annoying mother-in-law and Dwight finally being able to strut his stuff in the wrestling arena. Not exactly groundbreaking television, but since “Nikki” is scheduled against “The X-Files,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and movies at 9:30, it’s the only choice for viewers without cable who’d rather watch a sitcom. Hey, at least Nikki and Dwight don’t have any foul-mouthed, cynical kids. Yet.