A more enlightening title than “Kirstie,” frankly, would be “Seen Better Days,” which at least would capture the depressing sensation associated with watching this mini-“Must-See TV” reunion featuring Kirstie Alley, “Cheers” co-star Rhea Perlman and “Seinfeld’s” Michael Richards. Sparing her much research for the role, Alley plays an aging, Tony-award-winning stage diva who, with one unexpected knock at the door, meets the aw-shucks 26-year-old son she gave up at birth. Basically, think “All About Eve,” if it were remade as a woefully broad TV Land sitcom, rife with jokes about promiscuity, ego and of course, weight.
Alley’s Maddie and her pompous co-star (played by guest Christopher McDonald) have just finished taking curtain calls in a play titled “Worst Case Scenario” (presumably the writers possess a sense of irony) when Arlo (Eric Petersen) shows up at the actress’s Manhattan high-rise, wanting to meet his biological mom. She is flanked, naturally, by an all-knowing smartass personal assistant, Thelma (Perlman); driver with a shady past, Frank (Richards); and inordinately good-looking chef (Gilles Marini), who all appear to have no lives in any way separate from servicing hers.
Arlo, a bit of an amiable dork (he harbors a fondness for Civil War reenactments), isn’t after money, just a relationship. Yet if he’s supposed to offer a window into his mom’s pampered and self-absorbed eccentricities, the character’s waif-like manchild shtick, as written and played, is mostly just plain irritating.
The same largely goes for Maddie’s conflicted attitude toward him, which (penned by Marco Pennette, and directed by Andy Cadiff) comes off like a tired series of putdowns and rim-shots.
Having built something of a second career around self-deprecation, Alley gamely sinks her teeth into all the requisite spoiled thespian jokes — like how many people she slept with to land that halo-encircled Tony award, her fear of letting a younger and thinner understudy substitute for her, or telling Arlo she’s reluctant to acknowledge him because “My friends think I’m 36.”
Frank, meanwhile, is just itching to bump the kid off to prevent any possible complications, while Thelma responds to Kirstie’s exclamation “It’s back!” with “The herpes?” And so it goes.
TV Land has been reasonably adept at conceptualizing and casting sitcoms intended to almost seamlessly dovetail with its library of reruns, and in that respect “Kirstie” certainly fits the bill. While that might be a formula to generate sampling, the prospect of a show this tired retaining a sizable portion of those viewers would clearly be a best-case scenario.