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'Early' Line on This Trio: Que Sera Sera

TV REVIEWS | HOWARD ROSENBERG / TELEVISION

THE NEW TV SEASON * One in a series

September 28, 1996|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

"Early Edition" is a new series about foreseeing the future. Its own future on CBS rests in a time slot opposite two other series premiering tonight: the ABC comedy "Common Law" and the Fox comedy "Love and Marriage."

All three of which argue persuasively for going out on Saturday nights.

"Early Edition" asks what an ordinary guy would do if he knew the future a day in advance, then goes on to answer its own question unconvincingly in the premiere.

That guy is Chicagoan Gary Hobson (Kyle Chandler), a good-natured dope who is getting a Chicago Sun-Times newspaper with the next day's headlines and stories dropped at his door every morning with a yellow cat, not only giving him a jump on Roger Ebert's movie reviews, but a jump on everything!

Why the Sun-Times and not the Chicago Tribune? Why the cat? And why Gary, who seems to have done nothing to earn such a reward? The answers may surface later, but the premise alone is the kind of fertile fantasy (along with finding $1 million) that invites immediate daydreaming about what you would do--besides feeding the cat--if you were the beneficiary of such good fortune. Time to let your imagination run wild, which is more than "Early Edition" does.

The only people who know of Gary's unique news deliveries are his friends Marissa Clark (Shanesia Davis) and Chuck Grady (Fisher Stevens), the former an idealistic blind woman, the latter a gambling fiend who envisions the kadzillions he'll now be making from getting advances on sports results.

In addition to potential riches, knowing the future carries an enormous burden, and that is the direction the script takes the uncompelling Gary, who seems more interested in doing good than in making money. Unfortunately, the story that introduces him is uninspired and the resolution of the crisis he faces during a potential bank shootout is a no-brainer that leaves you skeptical about what's ahead for "Early Edition." Greater creativity, you'd hope, but who can predict the future?

*

It's "Love and Marriage" whose presses you'd most like to stop, though. It adds to prime time another routine sitcom, this one centering on a noisy family of Italian Americans. The only thing noisier is the laughter from the studio audience that greets almost every line. Fox must have paid a fortune for those cattle prods.

Jack Nardini (Tony Denison) runs a parking garage, and his wife, April (Patricia Healy), works the night shift at a trendy restaurant. In the little time they have together, they drink beer and gab on the fire escape outside the New York apartment they share with their three boisterous kids: the e'er-truant Christopher (Adam Zolotin), 11; freaky Gemmy (Alicia Bergman), 16; and Michael (Erik Palladino), 17; a community college student.

Their direct opposites are their square and sedate new neighbors, the Beggs (Meagen Fay and Michael Mantell), and the couple's nerdy kid (Adam Wylie). The premiere finds the two broods awkwardly socializing, as in rugged Jack talking up the New York Mets and effete Louis Begg talking about a chamber orchestra.

Jack: "Oh, who'd they play?"

Louis: "Mozart."

Jack: "I bet they kicked his ass."

Either Jack doesn't know who Mozart is or is trying to be funny; in either case, the gag doesn't fit the character.

"Love and Marriage" tries mightily to be as kicky as the venerable sitcom it follows, "Married . . . With Children," which still is sometimes very funny, a mark this new series may have a hard time matching.

*

Meanwhile, there's "Common Law" for those preferring cohabitation between a funky Latino lawyer and a WASP female lawyer who keep their romance secret from the rest of their office but not from his old-fashioned father, who doesn't like it at all.

The sprawl of comics in comedies continues, the latest example being this series, in which usual stand-up performer Greg Giraldo is prone on a couch with Megyn Price to begin the loud but undistinguished premiere.

It's New York, and Giraldo plays chaotic, guitar-strumming maverick lawyer John Alvarez. Price is his fellow attorney and live-in lover, Nancy Slaton, whose Upper East Side breeding contrasts with his blue-collar upbringing as son of a Latino barber named Luis (Gregory Sierra).

They hide their romance at the workplace because the conservative law firm that employs them frowns on office romances. And when John's old-fashioned dad learns that they're now living together, he's not thrilled either.

It's nice that an unstereotyped Latino (John is a Harvard Law School grad, as is Giraldo himself) is heading a series, disappointing that it's a comedy as common as "Common Law." Balancing him is the law firm's over-the-top Latina, Maria (Diana-Maria Riva), a thickly accented spitfire of an office manager with two-inch nails.

The episode also finds John arranging bail for a slobby friend who has roughed up Nancy's former boyfriend and working through the night to miraculously complete a legal brief for an important case that he and Nancy have been assigned. He's able to complete this seemingly impossible task because, well, he's John.

Giraldo is acceptable but not memorable in a series that appears designed specifically for him. Nothing personal, but isn't it time that TV abolished affirmative action for stand-up comics?

* "Early Edition" premieres at 9 tonight on CBS (Channel 2). "Common Law" premieres at 9:30 p.m. on ABC (Channel 7). "Love and Marriage" premieres at 9:30 p.m. on Fox (Channel 11).

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