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TV Reviews : 'Living Color': Brash, Cruel but Funny

April 14, 1990|HOWARD ROSENBERG

It's Saturday Night Jive, a butt-kicking half hour of the brashest, funniest, cruelest comedy on TV.

That "In Living Color" would surface on Fox--premiering at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on Channels 11 and 6 in advance of its regular run at 9 p.m. Saturdays--is no shock. After all, Fox is where bold comedy has always been welcome, witness "The Simpsons," "The Tracey Ullman Show" and--not always for the better--"Married . . . With Children."

"In Living Color" is a gamble not only time slot-wise--airing on an evening when much of its youngish target audience can be expected to be out on the town--but also attitude-wise.

Created by Keenen Ivory Wayans, this latest child of Fox is an earthquake of laughs that give satirical sketch comedy a distinctive flavor and, yes, color. Of the nine members of this talented comedy troupe, seven, including Wayans, are black.

The show opens joltingly, with Mike Tyson (Wayans) and Robin Givens (Kim Coles) as they would appear with Chuck Woolery (Jim Carrey) on "The Love Connection." Even more than the material, it's the impressions--especially Wayans as Tyson--that put you away.

Another highlight is "The Homeboy Shopping Network," a spoof of "The Home Shopping Network" with Wayans and his brother, Damon Wayans, as a couple of kids selling stolen goods--including a NASA satellite dish--out of the back of a truck.

Still unkinder, but very, very funny, is "Men on Film," with Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier vamping to the hilt as flaming gays discussing movies, including "Great Balls of Fire."

A running bit is "Great Moments in Black History," this week revealing the story of astronaut "Slick Johnson."

Some of the greatest moments of "In Living Color" arrive in later episodes. One is a parody of those pretentious TV commercials for Calvin Klein's "Obsession" cologne. This time most of the actors are black, and the name of the cologne is "Oppression."

Also scheduled to show up later is the hilarious "Wrath of Farrakhan," in which the Nation of Islam leader unseats Capt. Kirk and takes over the Enterprise with the cooperation of Spock and the the crew. Kirk to Spock: "Are you out of your Vulcan mind?"

Nothing and no one is sacred here. No one, apparently, but Sammy Davis Jr. The very funny "Sammy \o7 Is\f7 Mandela"--with Tommy Davidson as Davis singing "The Mandy Man"--was dropped after getting an intense negative reaction from a test audience.

Not all of "In Living Color" works, and some of the show looks like it was finished about 30 seconds before air time. Otherwise, this is just wonderful stuff. There's a sense of danger here. "Saturday Night Live" has had it from time to time. "In Living Color" has it \o7 big\f7 time.

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