Picks and Pans Review: Amen

updated 09/29/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/1986 01:00AM

NBC (Sat., Sept. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET)

B

But here, thank God, is one fresh idea for the new season: a sitcom set in a church. Sherman (The Jeffersons) Hemsley is the all-powerful, always abrasive deacon of his Philadelphia congregation. As the show starts, he's berating the pastor for his poundage: "Either you have to lose some weight or we have to build a bigger church!" Sherman screeches. "People are complaining that you're blocking the view of the choir." That's standard Hemsley humor: fat jokes. But he still makes them funny. The roly-poly Rev. quits and Hemsley gets stuck with a new, smart, handsome minister he can't stand, Clifton (That's My Mama) Davis. In the premiere, Hemsley, the devil, tempts a basketball star into taking a payoff while Davis, the angel's advocate, tries to stop him. Except for the paunch lines, there aren't enough good jokes to satisfy me. But because the cast is good and because Amen's executive producer is Ed (Taxi, Cosby) Weinberger, I have hopes for the series. If Weinberger & Co. are daring enough to find the humor there really is in a church—and if defenders of the faith prove they have a sense of humor and leave the show alone—then Amen has (you guessed it) a prayer.

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