By Robert MacKenzie
We don't ask much from a
situation comedy -- only that it be funny and have someone in it we like.
NBC's Sara (currently showing on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. [ET]) has funny
lines and several likable characters and is worth 30 minutes of your time unless
you are writing a book or remodeling a bathroom.
Sara (Geena Davis) is a pretty
lawyer in a small San Francisco law office. The four lawyers in the office
usually outnumber the clients, so there is plenty of time for badinage.
The best exchanges are between Dennis, the gay lawyer, and Marty, the resident
Dennis: "I like women a lot
better than you do. I treat them with respect and affection."
Marty: "Don't tell me about your hang-ups, Dennis."
When Marty tells Dennis he should
have stayed in the closet where he could be with his clothes, Dennis replies,
"You're slime, Marty." And Marty comes back, "At least I'm
This is the best TV handling of a
gay character to date. Dennis, as played by Bronson Pinchot, is witty and
winning, gay in mannerisms but not swishy. Marty (Bill Maher) is an
indiscriminate womanizer and one crude guy, but equally funny. When he
accused Dennis of picking up sailors, Dennis retorted huffily, "Marty, that
is an insult to me, to every gay person, and to every sailor on
earth." Marty nodded in satisfaction. "Fine, then I've
done my work."
As in The Mary Tyler Moore
Show, the female lead is mostly a foil and catalyst for the funny characters
around her. Sara has no steady man in her life so far, and when one turns
up she pursues work first and romance second. Her best pal and fellow
lawyer, Roz (Alfre Woodard) tries to pep up Sara's social life, usually with
When Sara indicated she planned
to spend her birthday watching sports on TV, Roz cooked up a surprise birthday
party, complete with a male stripper and a blind date. The blind date was
a nerd, of course; Sara went to the ladies' room and refused to come out.
One of Sara's neighbors (Mark
Hudson) has a cute 4-year-old boy (Matthew Lawrence) and leans on Sara for
baby-sitting. When Sara re-fell in love with an old boy friend and tried
to find time alone with him, her lawyering and baby-sitting duties
interfered. The boy friend sighed, "If someone had asked me what it
would take to make the evening perfect, I'd have said a 4-year-old
boy." The guy finally moved on.
Sara's mom is a trail to her,
too, always asking if she's "seeing anyone." Sara, in
exasperation: "Sure, mom, I see a different man every night. I pick 'em
out of a phone book. I'm up to the L's now."
Davis is terrifically attractive
as Sara, and can handle a funny line when she gets one. Woodard, who was
wonderful in the movie "Cross Creek," shows a comedy talent
here. Ronnie Claire Edwards as the office secretary is a cozy character.
When it's good, which is usually,
Sara is about friendship, and independence, and the rigors of single life
in the city. The ensemble is shrewdly chosen and the writing has a touch
of class. Who needs more?