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TV Review : 'Something Wilder' Could Grow on You

October 01, 1994|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Gene Wilder makes his TV series debut tonight in a pleasing, upbeat little NBC comedy that has the potential to grow creatively--and to grow on viewers.

*

Wilder plays Gene Bergman, and Hillary B. Smith is his wife, Annie. They're the parents of twin 4-year-old boys whose first exposure to preschool becomes the moderately amusing center of the premiere, as Annie panics about relinquishing their sons to another environment, and Gene tries to calm her.

"I am not being emotional!" she snaps at her lower-key husband. "It makes me want to scream when you say that!"

Meanwhile, Gene attempts to cope at his advertising agency, where one of his partners is his spacey brother-in-law who wants to use the image of Adolf Hitler to sell a restaurant, failing to understand why anyone would call that tasteless.

"It's very difficult to explain bad taste to someone who has it," Gene says.

That could apply, as well, to the perpetrators of most of the fall season's new comedies. Happily, "Something Wilder" rises above them.

Although the Bergman twins come under the category of gratingly cutesy sitcom kids, the premiere's streaks of gentle humor are what you remember, as well as the gifted, likable Wilder's benign paternalism, an effective counterpoint to the intensity of Smith's Annie. A nice start.

* "Something Wilder" premieres at 8 tonight on NBC (Channels 4, 36 and 39).

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