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TV REVIEWS : New Tom Arnold Show Just Filling Time


You have to hand it to Tom and Roseanne Arnold. It's not every couple who has the clout to wangle back-to-back forgettable comedies that have the husband's name in the title.

Trying to rebound from the demise of last season's grating "The Jackie Thomas Show" on ABC, Tom Arnold returns at 8:30 tonight on Channels 2 and 8 playing a kinder, gentler welder who has moved his wife and five kids into a construction trailer by the dream home he is building on a farm in the Midwest.

The series is "Tom." The executive producers/creators/writers are the Arnolds and Steve Pepoon. The network is CBS, which reportedly had been wooing the Arnolds following "Roseanne" superstar Roseanne's celebrated epic tiffs with ABC.

ABC recently announced a new three-year deal for "Roseanne." But Roseanne immediately denied making a new deal with ABC. If you think that's confusing, let's look in on the farm.

Tom Arnold is likable enough as Tom Graham, a stereotypical, rough-on-the-edges lug with a heart of gold. He's most appealing when joshing with his brother-in-law. Based on its premiere, however, "Tom" reeks of ordinariness, being one of those series that is neither bad nor good, filling space without either offending or rewarding. It's just . . . there.

There is little humor or character consistency to sustain the opening half hour, which finds Tom ridiculing his wife, Dorothy (Alison LaPlaca), for wanting to go to law school.

Her: "I'm going to be a lawyer."

Him (snickering): "That's super, honey. I'm going to be an astronaut."

Whereupon she dumps a bowl of food on his head.

But he has a change of heart later, telling her that she should go to law school. But she has a change of heart, telling him that she shouldn't go to law school. But he goes to the registrar's office later, making sure she does go to law school. Then she agrees she should go to law school. "But wait a minute," she adds. "How are we going to pay for this?"

Huh? She applied to law school, got accepted to law school, responded angrily when Tom mocked her plans to attend law school, and only now is wondering how they're going to pay for law school? Only a Philadelphia lawyer could decode this fine print.

Of course. That's it. A Philadelphia lawyer played by you-know-who in a third Tom Arnold series, "The Tom T. Thomas Show." Watch for the promos.

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