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LL Cool J Follows Fresh Prince's Lead

April 10, 1995|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Nearly five years after introducing Will Smith to TV viewers in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," NBC has collected another rapper for a prime-time sitcom.

*

One difference: While Smith (known to his music fans as the Grammy-winning Fresh Prince) has proved an able, adaptable actor, Grammy-winner LL Cool J looks, talks and moves too much like a rapper to be credible in NBC's humdrum new "In the House." Nor does it help that the stony LL Cool J, whose given name is James Todd Smith, has weak acting skills.

LL Cool J portrays Marion Hill, an injured professional football player training for a comeback. He needs money. Debbie Allen is Jackie Warren, a former socialite whose split from her husband means harder times for her and her two kids (Maia Campbell and Jeffery Wood). They need money and a place to live.

They end up renting Marion's house while he lives in the apartment above his garage and shares the kitchen with his tenants. By the end of the premiere, Marion has agreed to be Jackie's nanny while she works as an administrative assistant to a snotty attorney.

Nothing notable happens here, and there's little to laugh at except an early ethnic joke from Jackie's teen-age daughter about the family's diminished status: "We're black white trash."

Meanwhile, LL Cool J never removes his baseball cap, as if he's not planning a long stay.

* "In the House" premieres at 8:30 tonight on NBC (Channels 4, 36, 39).

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