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Low IQ Hampers WB's 'Reba' and 'Raising Dad'

Television Review

The New Season

October 05, 2001|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Two WB's comedies arriving Friday night project familiar mediocrity.

Starring country music diva Reba McEntire, "Reba" serves on its platter of yucks tonight teen pregnancy, of all things, otherwise known as a parent's nightmare. Main man of the quip-driven Bob Saget comedy, "Raising Dad," is a father who horrifies his teen daughter when blurting out some of her secrets to the creative writing class he teaches in the same high school she attends. At her expense, he can't control his mouth; this eccentricity is somehow intended to endear him to viewers.

The problem with "Reba" is not good ol' girl McEntire, who has the skills and comic timing to flourish as a sitcom mom with funny material. Nor is it JoAnna Garcia as her character's 17-year-old daughter, Cheyenne. It's mostly the show's broadly written males--over-the-top stupid to the point of distraction--who drive down the slapsticky premiere.

They are Reba Hart's estranged-husband, dentist Brock (Christopher Rich), and Cheyenne's football star boyfriend, Van (Steve Howey), a pair of classic boobs with no comic legs in an opening episode driven by dueling pregnancies and family dysfunction.

On the other hand, Brock's vastly overdrawn girlfriend, Barbra Jean (Melissa Peterman), is as much a slippery banana peel as the men. "Fight it," Reba says when Barbra Jean offers her a hug.

No hugs, either, for "Raising Dad," where recent widower Matt Stewart (Saget) tries so desperately to be close to his 15-year-old daughter, Sarah (Kat Dennings)--embarrassing her with her friends--that he drives her away. If this seems to you a bit out of Saget's range, you're close.

Meanwhile, Matt's younger daughter (Brie Larson) keeps ditching school to be at home with her grandfather (Jerry Adler), and forgetful Matt keeps springing Sarah's secrets on his class.

Dennings, Larson and the versatile Adler (who plays a recurring Jewish mobster on "The Sopranos") do well, and Saget blows no wisecracks. In their perspectives on teens awkwardly in limbo between home and school, moreover, "Raising Dad" and "Maybe It's Me," another new WB comedy, are fundamentally alike. The IQ gap is vast, though, and never more evident than at the end of "Raising Dad," when it's time to suspend attempts at comedy and get all maudlin about Mom and forgive Dad for being so infantile.

Someone should have told them: "Fight it."

*

"Reba" premieres tonight at 9 on the WB, followed by "Raising Dad" at 9:30.

The network has rated "Reba" TV-PG-D (may be unsuitable for young children with a special advisory for suggestive dialogue); it has rated "Raising Dad" TV-PG.

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