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TV REVIEWS : 'Frasier' Brings Cheer, 'Sinbad' Warmth

The New Season: One of a series

September 16, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Two more network comedies arrive tonight. One of them, "Frasier," has that can't-miss stamp, less from the humor it displays--which is promising--than from the fact that it spins off a popular "Cheers" supporting character in a time slot that follows the NBC hit "Seinfeld." The other newcomer is "The Sinbad Show," a Fox series that extends the single-parent-copes-with-kids theme to yet another prime-time half hour.

Airing at 9:30 on Channels 4, 36 and 39, "Frasier" returns Kelsey Grammer to the boards as the pompously verbose but insecure psychiatrist from "Cheers." Divorced Frasier Crane now has an advice-dispensing radio talk show in Seattle, his hometown. How successful is he? His producer (Peri Gilpin): "You kept referring to Jerry, the guy with the identity crisis, as Jeff."

But Frasier's problems are only beginning. His equally cultured, wordy and snobby psychiatrist brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), is Frasier with a touch of larceny, getting his sibling to take in and accept responsibility for their father (John Mahoney), a growling, beer-guzzling, disabled ex-cop who is the rough-hewn opposite of his silky, opera-loving sons.

If the premiere of "Frasier" does not manufacture laughs as consistently as one might expect from a "Cheers" offspring, it's still a cleverly written show with a quality cast that bodes well for the future. Mahoney is superb as the father, who reveals his inner feelings grudgingly, and Grammer is a master of the witty response.

*

The funniest thing about "The Sinbad Show" is a paragraph in a press release from Touchstone Television touting its new comedy. The premiere, it says, was "created by Gary Murphy & Larry Strawther and Sinbad and rewritten by Michael Jacobs & David A. Caplan & Brian LaPan. The teleplay is by Gary Murphy & Larry Strawther & Sinbad and Michael Jacobs & David A. Caplan & Brian LaPan from a story by Gary Murphy & Larry Strawther & Sinbad."

That's how you make a sitcom sound like "War and Peace."

All this for a modest premiere (at 8:30 p.m. on Channels 11 and 6) that introduces actor/stand-up comic Sinbad as a 35-year-old single man/child named David Bryan, who reasons that the best way for him to start acting like a responsible adult is to adopt 5-year-old Zana (Erin Davis) and 12-year-old Little John (Willie Norwood), a sister and brother who live at a foster home where he volunteers once a week.

Zana is already promised to a married couple, but David objects to having the kids split. "Look at what happened to the Jacksons. Michael left the group. Lost all of his pigmentation."

It's the tartest line in the entire program, which otherwise deploys warmth, rather than sharp humor, in an attempt to seduce viewers.

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