MIAMI — CBS Entertainment executives promise that "Dave's World," a new sitcom based on the life and writings of syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry, will be the funniest show on television this fall, and not a few industry insiders think the series could be a Monday night hit.
But no one at CBS is laughing over a parody of "Dave's World" published in New Times, a weekly alternative newspaper here, that includes a phony script of the pilot and a faked memo, purportedly from creator and writer Fred Barron. The memo describes an evening of drinking with Barry at his favorite Miami pub in which the humorist becomes a "nasty" drunk, insults his colleagues at the Miami Herald and issues a set of demands, including one that the show be retitled "Dave's World: Misadventures of a Pulitzer Prize Winning Smartass."
So incensed were CBS officials over the parody that corporate lawyers pored over the issue, published Aug. 18, and contemplated legal action. CBS will not sue, Susan Tick, a network spokeswoman, said from Los Angeles. "But," she added of the parody, "we're not happy. If it was meant to be humorous, the humor escapes me."
Neither was Dave Barry amused. He first learned of the parody, headlined "The Secret Script," while on vacation last week in Italy with his wife and son. Read parts of the article over the phone, he called it "freshmonic, a level below sophomoric."
Since returning home to Miami, he's seen the entire article, which is illustrated with photos of made-up documents, including the alleged Barron memo and a letter on Miami Herald stationery purportedly signed by publisher Dave Lawrence. "It didn't seem to have any point except to be vicious," Barry, 45, the best-selling author of several books and whose column runs in 300 newspapers each week, said. "This never got to the level of funny. It was failed humor. I was kind of hurt."
New Times editor Jim Mullin--who with several staff writers authored the unsigned parody--expressed surprise over the flap. "If they have such a humorless reaction to this good-natured spoof, then what on Earth can we expect from the program itself?" he said.
Barron did travel to Miami recently, Barry said, and the two did have dinner together. But none of the other events or conversations described in the fake memo took place, he added.
As for the phony script, it, like the real pilot (which airs Sept. 20), contains a plot line that has Barry coaching his son's soccer team. But the difference, say Barry and Tick of CBS, is that Barron's script is funny, and New Times' isn't.
"It seems like New Times hates the Herald, and I represent the Herald and this was a way to attack," said Barry. "I didn't detect any lightheartedness in it."
Barron, also responsible for "Seinfeld," could not be reached for comment.