Mad for each other? Maybe. Made for each other? Hardly.
In the Oct. 10 premiere of this mediocre sitcom, single Teddie (Geena Davis) and widowed Max (Peter Horton) fell head over heels and got engaged after a six-week acquaintance (which took up less than a minute of screen time). Teddie moved from Manhattan into Max's suburban home, foolishly convinced that being stepmother to his two children would require little thought or effort. Then she demonstrated her sense of propriety by parading around the kitchen in a T-shirt and panties, oblivious to the hormonal reaction of 13-year-old Carter (John Francis Daley from Freaks and Geeks). Later, Teddie and Max had an argument about parenting, and Teddie's friend Hillary (Mimi Rogers) assured her that "a fight is how you know a relationship is real." Frequent lovers' quarrels seem inevitable here—to be followed by "make-up sex"—but reality doesn't figure to be much of a factor.
According to ABC publicity, Max is a "successful writer," which explains how he can afford to hang around the house while employing an apparently full-time caregiver (Esther Scott) for the kids. Teddie heads a company that connects celebrities with worthy causes. Her staff consists of sassy Judy (Kim Coles) and obnoxious Alan (Harland Williams), whose principal comic attributes are his stiff-necked posture and double chin. There's no denying Davis's assets, but those great gams will get her show only so far.
Bottom Line: Shaky star vehicle
HBO (Sundays; check listings)
Show of the week
If you've been feeling comedy-deprived since Seinfeld went out of production, you'll be excited—in moderation, of course—about this new effort from Larry David, co-creator of the Show About Nothing. Like David's 1999 HBO special, which bore the same inspired title, Curb Your Enthusiasm has an unhurried, improvisational style that may cause restlessness. And David, playing himself as a cranky pessimist, is a determinedly unlovable star. But stay with the 10-week series (premiering Oct. 15) and you'll be ensnared by his sly humor.
Though this is far from an average sitcom, the situations are key to the comedy. Trouble begins with a small misunderstanding or a seemingly harmless deception, and gradually David maneuvers himself into an embarrassing corner. Along with his wife (played by Cheryl Hines) and manager (Jeff Garlin), guest celebrities such as Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen (see the priceless Oct. 22 episode) are drawn into the confusion of David's world. It's a peculiar place you won't want to leave.
Bottom Line: Go ahead, enthuse
CBS (Saturdays, 8 p.m. ET)
Hmm, where have we seen That's Life before? The protagonist (Heather Paige Kent) is a bartender who upsets her working-class family by enrolling in college—sort of like the main character in FOX's failed 1998 sitcom Costello, except she's New Jersey Italian instead of Boston Irish. She has flashes of fantasy à la Ally McBeal. She's singled out for instructive abuse by an imperious professor (Peter Firth) who's a hard-drinking version of John Houseman in The Paper Chase. When classes are done and she returns to the old neighborhood, the show turns into a noncredit course in elementary ethnic stereotypes.
But here's the funny thing about this new comedy-drama series: Kent brings so much spirit to the role of 32-year-old freshman Lydia DeLucca that the warmed-over material sometimes seems fresh. You'll be inclined to appreciate the good casting (Paul Sorvino as Lydia's father) and pardon the less apt (Ellen Burstyn as her mom). You'll want to credit Sonny Marinelli's capable performance as Lydia's ex-boyfriend and excuse the dumb idea of calling the guy Lou Buttafucco (after formerly famous adulterer Joey Buttafuoco). But Kevin Dillon overacts unforgivably as Lydia's boorish cop brother.
Bottom Line: Life could be better
>Sunday, Oct. 22 SONGS IN ORDINARY TIME CBS (9 p.m. ET) Single mom Sissy Spacek meets drifter Beau Bridges (no, not of Madison County) in this TV movie.
Monday, Oct. 23 BIOGRAPHY A & E (8 p.m. ET) Vampire novelist Anne Rice goes under the microscope.
Tuesday, Oct. 24 FRASIER NBC (9 p.m. ET) Last spring Niles and Daphne ran off; tonight they begin a messy fall by facing their exes.
Wednesday, Oct. 25 BETTE CBS (8 p.m. ET) Hello, Dollys! Bette dresses for Halloween as guest Dolly Parton, who mistakenly gets busted.
Thursday, Oct. 26 MYSTERY! PBS (9 p.m. ET) Geriatric sleuth Hetty Wainthropp investigates thievery in a hospital.
Friday, Oct. 27 EQUALITY ROCKS VH1 (10 p.m. ET)
A gay-rights concert with Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and—ladies and gentlemen, on drums, please put your hands together for—Tipper Gore.
Saturday, Oct. 28 HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL HBO (9 p.m. ET) The 1958 Vincent Price creaker gets refurbished in a grisly 1999 update.
ABC (Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)