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Television Review

Parents Are 'Movie Stars,' but Formula is Familiar

July 10, 1999|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

The WB's witless new "Movie Stars" is a name-dropping sitcom for buyers of star maps and fanatics who stand outside the Oscars or Emmys and scream at arriving celebrities.

The setting is the swank Malibu home of movie stars Reese Hardin (Harry Hamlin) and Jacey Wyatt (Jennifer Grant), which they share with his mother (Anne Haney) and their two kids, 13-year-old Apache (Zack Hopkins), a mogul in the making, and Moonglow (Rachel David), age 6. Arriving unexpected in the premiere--and showing plenty of breast in a hot tub scene--is Lori (Marnette Patterson), Reese's rebellious 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

How will this eclectic family ever get along? Same as a kadzillion previous sitcoms with the same exciting formula. That's the point: Despite riches and fame, movie star parents face the same challenges as everyone else because they are, when stripped of their glamour, Just Like Us.

Except in this case, when the premises are inhabited by smart-ass kids who talk like adults, as in snotty Apache doing something akin to stand-up and teensy-weensy Moonglow responding to adventure star Reese making light of Jacey's serious acting: "I don't think Daddy respects our craft."

Along with a hemorrhaging of celebrity names, glints of cleverness surface here, too. One is Reese's bit actor brother, Todd (Mark Benninghofen), playing cards regularly with real-life Joey Travolta, Don Swayze and Frank Stallone as a subculture of unfamous siblings of movie stars. Another, in Monday's second episode, is Reese wearing an absurd Tweety Bird suit while giving an Ibsen reading at a party for 6-year-olds.

The concepts far exceed the execution, unfortunately, notwithstanding a laugh track that explodes at even arcane Hollywood references, and at every joke attempt, no matter how numbing.

Apache: "I have a problem with my name."

Jacey: "What's the problem?"

Apache: "It sucks."

Laugh track: Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

"Movie Stars," a comedy only a laugh track would find funny.

* "Movie Stars" premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on the WB. The network has rated it TV-PGDL (may be unsuitable for young children with special advisories for suggestive dialogue).

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