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TV REVIEW : 'Mr. Cooper': A Comedy That Seems Familiar

September 22, 1992|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

To clear up any confusion, ABC's new "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" is unrelated to "Hang 'em High," "The Hanging Tree" and "Hangmen Also Die," although it is about as funny.

Tall, loosey-goosey protagonist Mark Cooper (Mark Curry) occupies two fields of battle in this comedy series, which premieres at 8:30 tonight on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42. One is the Oakland house he shares with two swell-looking young women: his childhood pal, Robin (Dawnn Lewis), and sassy Vanessa (Holly Robinson), who does "what I want when I want witever who I want," which doesn't include Cooper. The second is his old school where the ex-jock/aspiring coach Cooper is hired as a substitute--teaching science.

Proving that comedy writing is no science, the problems that Cooper encounters at school--a la "Welcome Back, Kotter"--include getting glued to his chair by students and getting pestered by strait-laced Principal Rambis (Al Fann), who has a snit upon discovering his new teacher dancing in class to music played by two girls: "This is not a disco. This is a science class."

If Cooper is Gabe Kotter at school, he surely is Jack Tripper on the home front, odd person out in this platonic, three's-a-crowdsome in which Robin tries to keep peace between Vanessa and the good-natured, wisecracking Cooper.

Curry is a stand-up comic whom ABC is said to be high on. His goofiness wears thin tonight, however, and it's Lewis and Robinson who are the most appealing components of the premiere of a series that should be retitled "Welcome Back, John Ritter."

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