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TV Review

'Costello' Is a Blue-Collar Chip Off the 'Cheers' Block

September 08, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Sitcoms have been sidling up to bars almost from TV's inception. Now comes Fox's "Costello," titled not after the South Boston tavern where much of this comedy takes place (the Bulldog), but after series lead Sue Costello.

She plays barmaid Sue Murphy, whose six months of psychotherapy and decision to dump her big duh of a boyfriend, PJ, is utterly befuddling to her pals and family. Her desire to beef up her vocabulary by learning a word a day is the talk of the bar. And her notions about improving her mind in the egghead arena of higher education? Get outta here!

These are blue collars, you see, a bunch of pugs (including her parents, played by Dan Lauria and Jenny O'Hara) incapable of vision or subtle thinking. Hence, "Costello" is a sort of working-class "Cheers," but much lighter on the laughs and heavier on the stereotypes in this initial outing. The characters are loud and boorish, even for Fox, and some of the language is as coarse as anything ever run on a network at 8:30 p.m.

Although Costello, a stand-up comic, displays no acting range beyond a frozen sardonic smile, she can deliver a one-liner, and the self-educating Rita she plays is likable and distinctive. The premiere finds feisty Sue moving back home with her parents, unbowed ("I don't want people to define me. I want to find out on my own what I want") and positioning herself to receive familial support despite her differences with her parents.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 9, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 5 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Actor's name--The name of actor Matt Mahaney was misspelled in a photo caption on the cover of Tuesday's Calendar. The misspelling was contained in information provided by the TV network.

The vitriol is much stronger at the bar when she tangles with the big-mouthed broad (is there any other kind here?) who emerges from the wings to claim possession of the thudding PJ.

Although "Costello" surely won't have you dozing off, it delivers more vitality than humor.

*

* "Costello" premieres at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 15 on Fox (Channel 11). The network has rated it TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language).

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