New York Times
July 16, 1985
and NBC Presents Two Pilots for Sitcoms
John J. O'Connor
THERE are times when the networks
demonstrably cannot win with the reviewers.
These days, for instance, the
viewer will come across scattered shows that are in pilot form and have not been
picked up as regular weekly series on the fall schedule. They are strong
candidates to wind up on the Great Junkpile of Failed Sitcom Ideas. So
what happens? The reviewers, ever a contrary lot, begin muttering that the
rejects really aren't so bad after all. Then, just for good measure, it is
added that these shows are certainly no worse than many that were
accepted. Forgive the poor network executive a chronic case of stomach
Well, if I can offer the
equivalent of two cheers, maybe one and a half, the networks were probably right
to have reservations, whether temporary or permanent, about two situation
comedies that can be sampled this week: ''The Recovery Room'' on CBS tonight at
8 o'clock, and ''No Complaints,'' on NBC tomorrow at 9:30. Both were made,
as it happens, in association with Embassy Television.
''The Recovery Room,'' produced
by Rita Dillon, is in many ways like ''E/R'' moved to the neighborhood bar and
grill. The Recovery Room is the name of a New York bar-restaurant
frequented by the staff of a nearby hospital. The place is owned by Steve
(Mark Linn-Baker), a dropout medical resident, and Kaye (Kelly Bishop), a former
nurse. The pilot, directed by Peter Bonerz, has the affable, likable
owners tending to the delicate psyches of their stereotypical customers.
There is young Dr. Russell
(Christopher Rich), the overbearing smoothie (''The night is young and I'm so
beautiful''); young Dr. Sherman (Adam LeFevre), the clumsy neophyte (a scared
patient is ''still scraping tapioca off the ceiling'' after one of his flubs),
and the middle-aged Jerry Himmel (Charles Kimbrough), the hospital administrator
who is determined to seduce every woman in his vicinity (''I'm lonely, you're
lonely, why don't we lie down someplace and talk about it'').
Complicating Steve's new role as
restaurateur is his formidable grandmother (Eileen Heckart), who is furious that
he has dropped out of a family tradition for studying medicine and, moreover,
has used his grandfather's inheritance money to open the Recovery Room.
With Miss Heckart rasping out her sarcastic gaglines, the character of Gramma is
really that old staple of the overprotective but ever-loving mother, preferably
Jewish. Using a script by Neil Cuthbert, the show is not unpleasant.
It's just that it is so terribly unoriginal.
Tomorrow evening's ''No
Complaints'' is certainly more promising - on paper. Valeri and Joanna,
two former college roommates, meet each other again about 12 years after
graduation. Valeri (Diana Canova) is a housewife. ''I've got a
husband and two kids,'' she tells an executive in her friend's office.
''That's it?'' he responds without hesitation. Joanna (Anne Twomey), on
the other hand, is a dynamic vice president in an advertising agency.
''Are those really your nails?,'' asks an impressed Valeri. ''Of course,''
explains Joanna blithely, ''I paid for them.'' Potential? Certainly.
But while the reunion of the two
women gets off to a dizzily attractive start - fingers snapping 1960's-style,
they sing about ''fun, fun, fun, until Daddy takes our T-Bird away'' - the
situation quickly disintegrates into what comes perilously close to a
hair-pulling brawl. Valeri is jealous of Joanna's breezy, name-dropping,
expense-account ways. Joanna is unable to change the fact that she is a
rather trying ''take-charge, take-over person on automatic pilot.''
The situation contrived for the
script - written by Linda Marsh and Margi Peters - is real enough, but the pilot
treatment, directed by Asaad Kelada, is a touch too shrill. When the
entire episode ends with the two women doing a takeoff of ''Cagney &
Lacey,'' a neutral observer can't help wondering where a series could possibly
go from here. Watching Miss Canova and Miss Twomey in anything can have
its rewards, but ''No Complaints'' tends to be irritatingly stingy.