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Television Reviews : Cinemax's Grades Slump With 'Rap Master Ronnie'

February 12, 1988|TERRY ATKINSON

"Rap Master Ronnie: A Report Card" is the third consecutive "Cinemax Comedy Experiment" to revolve around the presidency--and the second in a row to earn an F.

Written by "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau and composer Elizabeth Swados and adapted from their 1984 off-Broadway revue--with several added references to Iranscam, "Rap Master Ronnie" stars impressionist Jim Morris as Ronald Reagan, with brief appearances by Carol Kane, Jon Cryer and the Smothers Brothers. It airs Sunday at 11 p.m. on Cinemax cable.

Most of the 45-minute show consists of Morris putting us to sleep with the same old "Well . . . I can't remember my own name" routine. The show's only twist is its mainly musical format, beginning with a Secret-Service-accompanied rap (actually, despite the show's title, the only rap number in the program; most of the other witless lyrics are set to Swados' indifferent theatrical pop).

No matter whether Morris is doing his shtick, the Smothers are applying their worn-out act to the White House, Kane and Cryer are wasting their talents upon dumb song parodies, or supporting cast members are performing a (yawn) yuppie spoof, "Rap Master Ronnie: A Report Card" is incredibly, incessantly unfunny.

Speaking of report cards, the "Cinemax Comedy Experiment" is beginning to resemble a straight-A student whose grades have suddenly plummeted. Once a brilliant showcase for Bob Goldthwait and Gilbert Gottfried among others, the series is in an election-year slump.

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