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TV Reviews : NBC's Strongest Evening of the Week Has Its Weak Spot

September 22, 1994|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Joining Short in this epic talent pool are regulars Jan Hooks and Short's fellow "SCTV" alumnus, Andrea Martin. In fact, Tuesday's episode was a sort of "SCTV" reunion, initially featuring a moderately funny reprise of an old "SCTV" quiz show spoof, "Half-Wits." Former "SCTV" star Eugene Levy repeated his quiz-master role while also directing the episode.

The structure of "The Martin Short Show" is disorienting, even messy. Short plays himself as the star of a TV show, even using real-life anecdotes to create the impression that the NBC series is autobiographical. Yet Hooks, who isn't Short's wife, plays his wife, a fictional actress whose professional name is Meg Harper.

This show-within-a-show format has its roots in the comedy of Jack Benny, Burns and Allen and, more recently, "It's Garry Shandling's Show" on Showtime and Shandling's phenomenal current series, "The Larry Sanders Show" on HBO. The difference is that "The Martin Short Show," which Short executive produces himself, does it ineptly.

With so much performing talent, and a production staff whose credits include "SCTV," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "The Simpsons," Short's series should be much funnier than it is. Wall-to-wall Ed Grimley would be a welcome alternative.

* "Friends" premieres at 8:30 and "Madman of the People" at 9:30 tonight on NBC (Channels 4, 36 and 39). "The Martin Short Show" airs Tuesdays at 8:30 on NBC.

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