A couple of swell new comedy series are tonight's gift to the fall season from ABC. And CBS delivers a delectably trashy hour about frolicking Barbies and Kens in New York, followed by a legal drama so insipid that it deserves to be held in contempt.
Stand-up comics continue to be the locust swarms of prime time, making their distinctive sounds and imprinting their one-liner philosophy of humor on sitcom after sitcom.
Thus comes "The Drew Carey Show," named for its pudgy, burr-headed star, who plays the assistant personnel director at a Cleveland department store, where tonight his boss presses him to hire someone for the cosmetics counter.
On the home front, Drew coexists with two friends (Diedrich Bader and Ryan Stiles). They shoot the breeze at breakfast and shoot pool on an outdoor table covered with leaves.
Much funnier is Drew's riotous clash at the office with a shrewishly hostile job applicant (played to the hilarious hilt by Kathy Kinney), who renews her loud attack on him that evening at a bar. You'll be cheering when the cosmetics job goes to another of Drew's friends (Christa Miller).
In that it features goofy white bachelors and their obligatory token female pal--all of whom idle away their evenings in a local gathering spot--"The Drew Carey Show" is just one more brick in an expanding wall of singles comedies. What distinguishes the premiere, though, is its tart writing and the qualities of its cast--particularly Carey's intelligence, his offbeat, sardonic delivery, his straight-faced responses to the outrageous behavior of others and his kinship with material that is largely an extension of his stand-up act (he and executive producer Bruce Helford wrote the script).
Whether he can stretch beyond his stand-up work and move to another level, as have such comics-turned-sitcom-stars as Jerry Seinfeld, Brett Butler and Roseanne, remains to be seen.
Talented Tea Leoni's level is stratospheric in "The Naked Truth," a comedy that rides high on the lowly tactics of the Comet, a tabloid rag crammed with baloney and other specious material intended to make celebrities look as bad as possible.
The angular Leoni, whose legs seem to start at her chin, has great gifts as a physical comic, but she can do just as much with a good line, especially one that's self-mocking. She plays Nora Wilde, a serious photographer rendered penniless after divorce from her rich husband and forced to join the ranks of the \o7 paparazzi\f7 despite vowing never to sink that low. Her cynical boss at the Comet is played by Holland Taylor.
At a bar, Nora meets a fellow media predator nicknamed Stupid Dave. "I bet there's a funny story behind that name," she says. "Uh huh," he replies. "I'm stupid."
This series is anything but stupid. Nora is given a trial assignment to trample over the privacy of statuesque Anna Nicole Smith at her gynecologist's office, and after a gloriously funny encounter in which she virtually accosts Smith in an examining room, she returns to the office triumphant, with the compulsory embarrassing pictures and her subject's urine sample. What a fiendishly good start for "The Naked Truth."
That complicates things, for the new CBS series opposite ABC's "The Naked Truth" and "Grace Under Fire" is a lovable howl in its own right, although a vastly different one.
If you don't respond to Carrie Fairchild (Madchen Amick), check your pulse. She's the scheming little vixen whose antics set the tone for the premiere of "Central Park West," a masterpiece of rubbish from "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" creator Darren Star.
Is this fun or what? Star's New York has no crime, grime or homeless. No traffic gridlock or homely faces, either. But he does locate bushels of corn in a universe of romantic lighting, clinking glasses and disco beats, where beautiful people mingle effortlessly and arrogantly, as if being vacuous were a birthright.
The seductive Carrie's great-looking mother (Lauren Hutton) is married to a ruthless, ruggedly appealing magazine publisher (Ron Liebman), who despises Carrie, who despises him and anyone who crosses her, including swell-looking Stephanie Wells (Mariel Hemingway), the magazine's new, no-nonsense editor who despises columnist Carrie's earning "$200,000 a year for a few poorly written column inches."
In no time at all, vindictive Carrie is coming on to Stephanie's writer husband, handsome Mark Merrill (Tom Verica), who despises having a sex scandal in his teaching past, but what can he do?
Meanwhile, Carrie's marvelous-looking brother, Peter (John Barrowman), is a star attorney in the district attorney's office who despises single-breasted suits. Devastatingly hunky Gil Chase (Justin Lazard) is a young stockbroker who loves manipulating women as much as he despises integrity. Gil is confronted at the office by a ravishing client whose money he lost. "On top of that," she bristles, "you're dumping me. What kind of scum are you?"