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Television Reviews : 'Oxbridge Blues'

October 23, 1987|TERRY ATKINSON

Strap yourself in, grab tight and pay close attention if you tune in "He'll See You Now," the first episode of Frederic Raphael's "Oxbridge Blues" (Saturday night at 10:30, KCET Channel 28). Natty Carlsen is hard to keep up with--but worth the effort.

A motor-mouthed TV singer-actress, Natty (Susan Sarandon) confronts her psychiatrist (Barry Dennen) with her latest emotional problem. The last time she'd seen him, she swore off love forever. Now, of course, she's back in love--with two men.

Natty's being driven to distraction by the situation and by Stein's professional detachment. So she lays it on the line: Which is it to be, Dr. Stein, handsome (but suddenly impotent) dancer/poet Rick or mousy (but sexually adept) producer Sidney? She wants a decision in 10 seconds or. . . .

But before this, the mercurial Natalie Carlsen blasts the taciturn Dr. Stein with a barrage of good jokes, bad jokes, evasions, insults, revelations, pleadings, parenthetical statements and verbal left jabs. She's a delight--at least for eavesdropping viewers. So is the entire 40-minute teleplay, which takes a turn we won't spoil for you.

Sarandon and Dennen are superb. The only thing wrong with the episode is its sound recording: It mangles a few of Natty's fast-flying flippancies. (Incidentally, besides being droll, the language is very salty.)

Fun though it is, "He'll See You Now" makes an odd beginning for a series titled "Oxbridge Blues" (not to be confused with the 1984 film "Oxford Blues"). The episode has nothing to do with Oxford or Cambridge or even the English; Carlsen and Stein are Americans. Perhaps one should expect such surprises from series author Raphael. After all, even though associated with such veddy British scenarios as the film "Darling" and the acclaimed TV series "The Glittering Prizes," Raphael was born in Chicago.

Six more episodes of "Oxbridge Blues" will follow on successive Saturdays, four of them directed by series producer James Cellan Jones ("The Forsythe Saga," "The Adams Chronicles"). Lengths will vary--up to 90 minutes for another episode. Maybe that's one reason why "He'll See You Now," directed by Raphael, is so terrific; it ends when it's over, not when a time slot has been filled.

And when it does end, KCET shows some programming brilliance by putting on "A Severed Head," a Raphael film adaptation of Iris Murdoch's novel, whose characters and wit bear a definite relationship to "He'll See You Now."

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