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TV REVIEW : It's Moldy, It's Gooey . . . It's 'Monty' !

January 11, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The stars and producers of the new sitcom "Monty" (premiering at 8 tonight on Fox, Channels 11 and 6) have taken considerable pains to explain ahead of time that, no, the show's namesake--a right-wing commentator played by Henry Winkler--isn't really modeled on Rush Limbaugh.

Not that home viewers should have any trouble making this significant distinction. Limbaugh, after all, is funny.

What passes for cutting-edge conservative cracks from Winkler's Monty Richardson on his "Righttalk" show-within-a-show are toothless jabs on the safest of monologue subjects--Janet Reno's looks, animal rights, those darned immigrants ("My wife can't bring back a pineapple from Hawaii, and we give these guys the key to a 7-Eleven!").

His stuff is so topical, he makes Wally George look like William F. Buckley.

*

And wouldn't you know it: Monty and his determined old-fashionedness are surrounded on all sides by potential antagonists, from his black female producer, who disses him as "white boy" (a big laugh line here), to his freer-thinking wife and kids.

Tonight's opener has his college-age son bringing home a fiancee who--of course--is a vegetarian performance artist.

"She has a ring in her nose!" cries Monty, almost on first sight. "Are you getting married to a Pygmy?" Soon, like the Sally-Struthers-in-waiting that she is, the grungy newcomer (China Kantner) is returning every insult and referring to her future father-in-law as "you pompous, permanently-having-a-bad-hair-day fascist!"

Can the half-hour end in anything but hugs?

If the premiere's moldiness is any indication, "Monty" could be the tamest series ever to debut on Fox, with everyone on loan from Stereotypes R Us proving suitably gooey on the inside despite their daffy differences on nationally divisive issues such as spotted owls and body piercing.

It'll be gone soon . . . no rush.

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