In My Big Fat Greek Wedding
, eccentric patriarch Gus Portokalos (Michael Constantine) claimed Windex was a cure-all. After watching two episodes of this new sitcom, which continues the story of the hit film, I think maybe he should spray some on the scripts.
The premiere made a couple of winking references to the movie, then went on cruise control. The second outing was as discouraging as the first. "Holy mangos!" series star Nia Vardalos yelps when her character—called Nia here, not Toula as in the movie—glimpses a busty woman on TV. The merry laugh track makes it worse.
Nia's husband, renamed Thomas, is now played by Steven Eckholdt. (John Corbett, who had the movie role, is doing an upcoming FX series instead.) Where the big-screen groom was placidly accepting of his bride's boisterous Greek family, Thomas talks ineffectually about avoiding father-in-law Gus's domination and creating a marital privacy zone. Fat chance.
"Shut up and kiss me," Nia says to Thomas in the second episode. "Why don't you shut up and kiss me?" he replies. Anything to give us a break from the dialogue.
BOTTOM LINE: The humor's thin
FOX (Sundays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Blatant imitation is so commonplace on TV that I can't get too upset with the makers of this strained sitcom for ripping off The Wonder Years
. I just wish they'd done a better job of it.
The new series (premiering March 9) looks at the early '60s from what's supposed to be an ironic distance. The central character is Oliver Beene (Grant Rosenmeyer), a pudgy 11-year-old in the New York City borough of Queens, with narration provided by Oliver as a grown-up (David Cross off-camera). This voice-over commentary is sometimes funny but more often annoying, particularly when the contemporary Oliver bludgeons us with reminders that the show's humor is based on 1962 attitudes.
The head of the family is Jerry (Grant Shaud), a crass dentist who moons poolsiders at a club he's applying to join. No wonder wife Charlotte (Wendy Makkena) has a social inferiority complex. Though the narration aptly describes Oliver's 14-year-old brother Ted (Andrew Lawrence) as a jerk, a Mrs. Robinson type (guest Wendie Malick from Just Shoot Me) tries to seduce him. Like the show, she's a little desperate.
BOTTOM LINE: No blast from the past
FX (Sun., March 9, 8 p.m. ET)
By leaking the Pentagon's secret study of the Vietnam War in 1971, former Defense Department consultant Daniel Ellsberg incurred the fury of Richard Nixon and set up a landmark Supreme Court decision on freedom of the press. His story has considerable dramatic potential, but only part of it is realized in this TV movie.
James Spader skillfully plays Ellsberg as brilliant, intense and both self-righteous and guilt-ridden. Alan Arkin is effective as his boss at the Rand Corporation think tank. On the downside there's a Hollywood gloss to the treatment of Ellsberg's romance with his second wife (Claire Forlani), and the scenes in his psychiatrist's office seem more like didactic monologues than therapy sessions.
BOTTOM LINE: Well-acted but flawed
CBS (Sun., March 9, 9 p.m. ET)
"What were they thinking?" you'll ask after watching this ill-conceived reunion movie aimed at fans of the '60s Batman series. For a possible answer, look back to late 2001, when Carol Burnett had a hit special full of clips from her old comedy show, and TV execs concluded that viewers were hungry for nostalgia.
Former series stars Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin), playing themselves, reminisce while pursuing villains who stole the Bat-mobile from a museum. Since the duo has obviously lost its dynamism, we're supposed to laugh extra hard when West and Ward tangle with some ruffians and "Biff!" and "Kapow!" appear onscreen. Alas, what used to be campy is now just wheezy. But it's more entertaining than the flashbacks, with younger men portraying the actors in their heyday. Oh, and for those who care, the '60s West is shown as a superman with the ladies.
BOTTOM LINE: Ugh!
Sunday, March 9 SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS TNT (8 p.m. ET) Everybody loves Clint, so Ray Romano presents the Life Achievement Award to Mr. Eastwood.
Monday, March 10 MEET MY FOLKS NBC (9:30 p.m. ET) Three grown sons pick a date for their single mom in a special 90-minute "Meet My Kids" edition.
Tuesday, March 11 AMERICAN IDOL FOX (8 p.m. ET) It's two hours of Idol
worship as the Top 12 finalists perform live.
Wednesday, March 12 ALL AMERICAN GIRL ABC (9 p.m. ET) Yup, another American reality show. This is the start of a competition to determine the ultimate dream girl.
Thursday, March 13 NAACP IMAGE AWARDS FOX (8 p.m. ET) Cedric the Entertainer is host for the gala.
Friday, March 14 DA ALI G SHOW HBO (12:30 a.m. ET) The Brit prankster interviews James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio
Saturday, March 15 SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE NBC (11:30 p.m. ET) Frida
star Salma Hayek
CBS (Sundays, 8 p.m. ET)