NBC, astute in realizing the original debut episode of “The Michael Richards Show” was thoroughly unfunny, has replaced it with a seg that’s only slightly more comical. Sadly, the two episodes share a love of sophomoric shtick, a booming laugh track and a reliance on the character traits of Richards’ previous TV alter ego, Cosmo Kramer.
As private eye Vic Nardozza, Richards is a bumbling goofball who manages to solve cases despite his awkward techniques. In the pilot, Mitch (Hamilton Von Watts) hopes to catch his fiancee fooling around. She’s about to become his fourth wife and, well, she tends to drink a lot and then not be heard from for awhile.
Nardozza attempts to get a good-looking decoy to try to lure her from her barstool to a bedroom, but the gym teacher buddy he has been using declines the invite. Nardozza has to do it himself — but first he has to get in shape. In about an afternoon.
That does lead to the night’s lone comical riff as Nardozza attempts to be a smooth operator despite his muscles spasming at every turn from the workout. As the show goes from the bar to a hotel to a hospital, nothing else is very funny.
Nardozza’s office is stacked with oddballs, a suggestion that four Kramers is better than one. Tim Meadows, the “Saturday Night Live” alum now starring in bigscreener “The Ladies Man,” is a photographer-Peeping Tom who has a love-hate relationship with Jack (Bill Cobbs), the curmudgeonly veteran of the staff. Their jokes are as flat as the performances.
William Devane is Brady McKay, the head of the agency, and his transition from tough guy to kook does not fare as well as some notable transitions in the 1980s, when Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy traded in their straight-laced dramatic personas for a few laughs.
Stacey (Amy Farrington) is a no-nonsense new hire. In the pilot, she was tackling a reorganization of the files. The dialogue is as such:
McKay: “Stacy’s bringing a new system to the office.”
Stacey: “The alphabet.”
Kevin: “Oh, so you want to do it that way.”
The laugh track keels over as it does each time Richards utters a line. The humor is lacking at every turn in this series and the wit is practically nonexistent. Richards’ marquee value is limited to the “Seinfeld” audience, which will demand more than physical quirks and slapstick. Intelligent humor is not what this show is going after — and it’s even obvious from the laugh track response. When questioned about the validity of a statement, Nardozza responds, in that Kramer-esque I-know-what-I’m-talking-about voice: “It’s a fact, like evolution.” The response is a mere chuckle.
Technically the show is indistinguishable from countless other over-the-top, soon-to-be-canceled sitcoms.