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Comic Timing Can't Save 'Bob Patterson'

Television Review : The New Season

'Seinfeld' alum Jason Alexander now has his own sitcom, but the early results aren't promising.

October 02, 2001|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Two down, at least one to go.

First came Michael Richards, now Jason Alexander on ABC as the second prominent "Seinfeld" alumnus to star in a comedy far beneath his talent. Yet to weigh in is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose NBC comedy is scheduled for midseason, and Jerry Seinfeld himself, who'd be foolish to resume weekly sitcomdom given the near impossibility of living up to the brilliantly witty act he'd be following.

Still fleeing the Curse of George, Alexander is a famed motivational speaker who's lost his spark in "Bob Patterson," and Robert Klein is his mentor-partner Landau, trying mightily to pull the disconsolate Bob together for a seminar in La Jolla.

The insecure, dysfunctional Bob belies the confident Bob of his seminars and best-selling tapes, and while struggling tonight to overcome motivational speaker's block, he's distracted by the return of his sexy wife, Janet (Jennifer Aspen), and a gorgeous female who delivers water to the office.

Although they have the timing and comic instincts, rarely are Alexander and Klein funny, affirming that even the most gifted actors cannot rise above routine writing, the premiere getting off badly with a cheap Monica Lewinsky joke and a slew of other one-liners that thud like bricks.

The only character here that's amusingly written is Bob's new assistant, Claudia (Chandra Wilson). Her klutziness in a wheelchair is just a hoot both tonight and in a mildly funnier coming episode which finds Bob trying to dump his infomercial co-host, John Tesh, who plays himself--badly--as a sort of doofus. As an actor, he \o7 is\f7 one.

Not all "Seinfeld" folks have taken post-paradise creative dives. Larry David, the show's co-creator, is perfectly cast as his neurotic self in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," his oft-riotous comedy on HBO. And soon to arrive as lead insect in Fox's superhero spoof, "The Tick," is Patrick Warburton, who played the big palooka who was Elaine's most frequent boyfriend.

As for "Bob Patterson," the motivation to watch just isn't there.

*

"Bob Patterson" premieres tonight at 9 on ABC. The network has rated it TV-PG-DL (may be unsuitable for young children with special advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language).

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