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Television Review : The New Season

NBC Sitcom 'Emeril' Missing Some Essential Ingredients

September 25, 2001|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

The new prime-time season features several funny comedies. NBC's "Emeril" is not close to being one of them.

With renowned super-chef Emeril Lagasse playing himself (not very well, curiously) as the star of a TV cooking show, this is sitcom anorexia, a thudding half-hour of broad nonsense from "Designing Women" creators Linda Bloodworth and Harry Thomason. What were they thinking?

The premiere (supplanting an equally bad pilot returned to the factory for retooling) has Emeril, his agent (Robert Urich) and TV staff (Lisa Ann Walter, Sherri Shepherd and Carrie Preston) getting all worked up after a visit from an obnoxious network executive (Tricia O'Kelley) they'd like to assassinate on the spot, a sentiment viewers probably will share.

She delivers the bad news: The network finds Emeril too chubby. The better news is that it's launching a monthlong weight-loss contest among its food shows, the winner to split $100,000. So bring on the exercise bikes and diets, and all the frustrations that come with slashing calories short term.

As food intake falls, cheap gags mount. There are Walter and Shepherd practically hugging a ham. And there is poor Emeril, ravenous and weakened, becoming the kind of tofu pup his viewers abhor. "We want the old Emeril," demands a member of his studio audience, jumping to his feet as if reamed by a salami.

It's pretty dreadful stuff, made all the worse by Emeril being overshadowed by his own supporting cast. Lagasse, shmasse, dump this sucker fast.

*

"Emeril" premieres tonight at 8 on NBC. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

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