News Column

TV Land plugs Kirstie Alley into tired formula of stale humor plus sitcom legends.

December 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 02--TV Land has put together the kind of all-star comedy lineup for "Kirstie" that it used to make "Hot in Cleveland" such a mega hit. The big difference is that the "Kirstie" team is banking more on reputation than production to win over watchers.

Check out the credentials for the "Kirstie" team. It reunites "Cheers" veterans Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman plus brings "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards back to TV. Their past shows are considered two of the top TV comedies of all time. Those kind of credentials would make you think this series is another winner for TV Land.

You would think wrong.

"Kirstie" is a lifeless cable series built on a worn-out concept and delivered through jokes that would have been funny 20 years ago. The only thing original about this series is ... nothing.

Alley plays a Broadway diva who treats those around her like property. Perlman plays her devoted manager and Richards her less devoted driver. On the cusp of a new show opening, a young stranger (Eric Petersen) shows up at the backstage door to declare he is the son the actress gave up years ago.

That's the basis of the series. Giving up a baby is usually the plot gimmick for one episode of a series -- and usually comes late in the series run. Doing it as one episode makes it easy to run through all of the standard plot points like why the baby was given up, why the baby grew up to be such a loser and how the return of the child will change mom.

Better questions would be how these people so blindly accept the claim, why people don't storm out of a high-priced Broadway play when it turns into true confessions and why giving up a baby is fodder for funny.

You can't cast Alley and Perlman -- who have so much comedy baggage from their verbal battles on "Cheers" -- as friends. It looks forced and unbelievable.

Richards wouldn't notice as he is the biggest stiff on TV outside the supporting cast of "The Walking Dead." This should be the chance to redeem himself after the 2006 racist rant in a comedy club made him an entertainment pariah, but he brings no energy to the new series.

And, Alley has gone to a familiar well one too many times with the diva act. She hasn't played anything original since she beamed off the Enterprise in the 1982 feature "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

A change in character would have meant getting past the jokes about her weight that were old when she starred in "Veronica's Closet," but they just keep coming.

She is particularly forgettable in scenes with Petersen. There's not supposed to be any connection between the pair, but Alley and Petersen come across like they aren't even in the same ZIP code.

It's a shame TV isn't more like theater. When a new stage show bombs this badly, it closes after one show. "Kirstie" should close after its opening night.

Show review

"Kirstie," 10 p.m. Wednesday, TV Land. Grade D-

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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