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Kooky California Gurus, Fads Served on 'Serial' Skewer

August 20, 1992|JAMES M. SILVER

Adapted from Cyra McFadden's novel of the same name, "Serial" is a slice of life that satirizes Marin County in much the same way that Steve Martin's "L.A. Story" poked fun at the City of Angels. But "Serial" is a much funnier film.

This little gem skewers almost everything considered typically Californian, along with several minorities and common stereotypes, fads and psychobabble. "Serial" deals with the transition from hippiedom to yuppiedom. Free love, Moonies, communal living, materialism, self-realization, EST, vegetarianism, gurus--none are spared by the incisive, acerbic script. The film is richly populated with characters that are consistently true to life and absolutely hilarious.

The king of droll, Martin Mull, plays Harvey Hulroyd, the sanest of the characters in this wacky film. His marriage and others portrayed are in various states of dysfunction. But Hulroyd and his wife (Tuesday Weld) come together when their daughter leaves home and joins the "Church of Oriental Harmony."

Others in the cast include Hulroyd's best friend (Bill Macy of "Maude"), who is 50-ish, sex-starved and fixated on large breasts. A family psychiatrist played by Peter Bonerz (of "The Bob Newhart Show") is the worst person imaginable to work on anyone's mind. A business executive played by Christopher Lee leads a double life as Skull, the leader of a gay biker gang. Hulroyd's new secretary attends orgies and won't date single men because "they not only want to get into your pants, but also your life."

The wives meet twice weekly for group "T" sessions run by friend and "fem guru" Martha (Sally Kellerman). Martha wants her newly hired black maid to wear regular clothes, so people will think she's a friend dropping by. The maid is multiorgasmic and the envy of the group. Martha's guru, Reverend Spike, is played by Tom Smothers. Skull has a crush on him.

Believe it or not, all of these "normal" wackos are woven into an evenly paced, coherent and most enjoyable little film that is a major grin.

"Serial" (1980), directed by Bill Persky. 19 minutes. Rated R.

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