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'The Ruby Wax Show' a Wild, Raunchy Kick on Fox

TV REVIEW

June 09, 1997|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Uh . . . what is this?

That may be your response to "The Ruby Wax Show." It's a question neither Wax nor her new Fox series answers, which is one reason why it's such a raunchy kick. A bigger reason, of course, is Wax herself, whose pushy, coarse, obnoxious, loud, smart-ass New York yenta act elevates bad taste to a gleaming art.

Like its self-mocking dumpling star, this show has no waistline, no shape or defining contours. Like Wax, it seems just to happen, one performance after another that doesn't seem like a performance.

*

Although Wax is an accomplished writer (whose comedy credits include Britain's absolutely funny "Absolutely Fabulous"), there appears to be no script here, only vague notions witnessed by rolling cameras and punctuated by lots of nervous jump-cuts that imply spontaneity and accentuate her gift for chaos.

Wax, you see, does these celebrity interviews. Well, less interviews than flying encounters with lips flapping--none to be taken seriously.

Ever the exhibitionist, there she is tonight, swimsuit to swimsuit, with her not-quite-body-double, "Baywatch" babe Pamela Anderson. "Hi, I'm the new girl," Wax tells someone on the beach.

Then to London--where the American-born Wax has lived and worked as a performer and writer for years--for an interview with Goldie Hawn, beginning with the topic of nose hairs. In bed, under the covers in Hawn's hotel room, they gab in-depth about nothing. Beneath her tight pants, Wax tells Hawn, "I am rolled up here like a Torah."

Then she's in a Rolls, Harlette to Harlette with Bette Midler, before they go shopping at an exclusive London boutique. "All this to sell a record," cracks Midler, trying mightily to advertise her latest vocal.

*

Fox is airing six episodes of this epic tush of a show, which is an extension of the celebrity "chats" that Wax began on British TV more than a decade ago, a few of which have made their way to U.S. television. Her debut on Fox doesn't match the best of the slim British batch that aired here earlier, including one in which usually in-command comic Sandra Bernhard seemed to be almost shellshocked by the stumpy wild woman harassing her.

Wax on occasion tonight strains almost too hard to be outrageous, as if competing against her previous triumphant excesses.

Yet there's nothing like her on TV here: Coming episodes include asking Burt Reynolds about his love life and wig and singing in a bathtub with Tammy Faye Baker.

What is this? Don't ask.

* "The Ruby Wax Show" premieres at 8:30 tonight on Fox (Channel 11). The network has rated it TV-14 (may not be suitable for children under the age of 14).

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