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The sitcom, augmented

The makers of 'Stacked' figure Pamela Anderson has just what the struggling genre needs.

April 15, 2005|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

When you're a guy, some trends just reveal themselves. Wednesday brought news that an FDA advisory panel recommended approval of a silicone implant made by the Santa Barbara company Mentor Corp. "They say they can last 61 years," panel member Stephen Li was quoted as saying. "I don't believe that, but even if they are off by a factor of four, that's still 15 years."

I like his math. Later that night, Fox premiered its new sitcom, "Stacked," starring Pamela Anderson, who's been entering rooms seconds after her breasts do for some time now. Positioned as a lead-in to Fox's juggernaut "American Idol," her sitcom did well among the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic, especially men, and is scheduled for an encore Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

Anderson plays Skyler, who wanders into an independent bookstore and, through a series of events, comes to be employed at the place, which is called Stacked Books.

Well, why not? Fox reportedly committed to six episodes without seeing a completed script ("She's stacked, as you know, and she works at Stacked Books," is how I hear the pitch going). The conventional sitcom is supposedly on its way out the door, and the large-breasted blond may be the last person to turn out the lights. As Howard Stern has occasionally noted, many of the men making comedy today have fond adolescent memories of shows like "Petticoat Junction," "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "F Troop" -- each of which, to some degree, featured a stacked blond in the mix.

But none of them had Anderson's legitimate pop icon status. We and her breasts have been through so much now -- including a reduction at one point, then the restoration that we see on "Stacked" -- that they seem less sexual than classic, things destined for the Smithsonian; put them on a sitcom and they could become the equivalent of Archie Bunker's chair. To that end, the show's creator, Steve Levitan, has publicly positioned Anderson as a potential savior of the multicamera sitcom genre. "People are concerned that it's a dying breed," he told the New York Times. "Maybe, just maybe, somebody like Pam Anderson can save it."

Pam Anderson, saving the sitcom? Levitan was held up to Internet scorn for those and other puffed-up remarks. It's hard enough to put Anderson on the air as a bookseller without positioning her as the next Lucille Ball. Levitan further dissected his show as an alternate-universe "Cheers," saying that "instead of the smart intellectual coming to the everyman place, it's the everyman coming to the smart intellectual place."

In other words, you'll come for the cleavage, but you'll stay for the witty banter.

"Stacked" was sent out for preview to critics and then withdrawn when the show fired its lead actor, Tom Everett Scott, and reshot the pilot at the 11th hour. Anderson plays a PG-13 version of herself, less titillating than the image of the woman who made an infamous sex video with her rocker husband, then became a soccer mom (on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Wednesday, Anderson said she told the show's producers they would have to work around her kids' Little League schedule). On "Stacked," her bosom is instantly absorbed into the bosom of a "Cheers"-type environment, a bookstore/latte place run by two brothers, the anal aesthete Gavin (Elon Gold) and his brother Stuart (Brian Scolaro).

Scolaro, given a role you're familiar with (the schlubby sidekick), is terrific, an actual sitcom find, like Dave Higgins on the old "Ellen" show.

The rest of the cast too make a solid ensemble: Padget Brewster as Charlotte, Gavin's ice queen of an ex-wife; Marissa Jaret Winokur as Katrina, the wise-cracking bookstore barista; and the venerable Christopher Lloyd refining his wacky-scientist "Back to the Future" character as Harold March, retired head of the physics department at Caltech.

"Where's my coffee?" March barks at Katrina when she arrives late.

"I don't know, where's the life I always wanted?" she says back.

The last-minute subbing in of Gold for Scott in the Gavin role seems like the right choice, as if the producers decided finally that male viewers would rather live vicariously through a Jewish neurotic's proximity to Anderson than a cute boy playing it neurotic.

Not that Gavin seems bent on conquest; in the pilot, he's the only one who doesn't acknowledge Anderson's the elephant in the room. By the end of the half-hour, Skyler has broken up with her latest rocker boyfriend and, no surprise, decided to stay on at the bookstore as an employee.

In addition to the sitcom, might Anderson save the independent bookstore too?

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