Picks and Pans Review: Beverly Hills Buntz

updated 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

NBC (Sun., Nov. 29, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Network executives and producers—like most bosses—never know when to leave well enough alone. The original pilot of Beverly Hills Buntz was practically perfect. It was everything that Hooperman, Slap Maxwell, Frank's Place and Molly Dodd wanted to be: a sitcom with wry wit instead of cheap yuks, a drama with complex characters and real style. But you'll never see that episode of Buntz because (a) it was three and a half minutes too long, (b) NBC did some research and decided that the show needed a clearer beginning and a neater ending, (c) the producers thought the look was too dark and (d) they recast two characters. Since Buntz is a "designated hitter" that doesn't air every week, they had time to futz. They hired Hal Ashby—who must have been desperate for a job after he directed the barf-able 8 Million Ways to Die—and he reshot the whole show. So what you saw when Buntz premiered on Thursday, Nov. 5, was Ashby's remake—the B+ version of an A + show, the production-line model without the subtlety, fine shadings, grace and unpredictability of the original. But you still saw two wonderful characters: Dennis Franz as the sleaze-covered good guy Norman Buntz and Peter Jurasik as Sid the snitch; they kept Hill Street Blues alive in its last few seasons, and now they're struggling private eyes in Beverly Hills. And you still got a show better than most. NBC should go ahead and make Buntz a weekly show—so they wouldn't have time to screw it up again. For now you'll have to be satisfied watching another Buntz this Sunday night. And Buntz will have to be satisfied with its grade of:

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