Picks and Pans Review: Dear John

updated 10/10/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Thurs., Oct. 6, 9 p.m. ET)

C+

Judd Hirsch just sits there, and the audience laughs. He's not moving, not mugging, not even doing a Jack Benny take, but they're guffawing their gizzards up. If ever I decide to start a career in stand-up comedy, I want that audience. They'll laugh at anything...even Dear John. The show is not offensive, only uninspired. It is a copy of a BBC series made by people who should have been able to come up with an idea of their own—people like producer Ed. (Taxi) Weinberger and director James (Cheers) Burrows. In Dear John, Hirsch plays a poor shlub whose wife leaves him for his own best friend. So he goes to a singles-cum-therapy group where he meets Characters with Capital Cs: a nice-looking lady who will remind you of Elaine from Taxi; a pale copy of Cheers's Nick Tortelli, who wears gold chains and hunts down "ferns, females, legs, broadskis"; and a tame imitation of the Church Lady, who leers and asks, again and again, "Were there any...sexual problems?" They're all acting out awkward remakes of the shrink sessions from the old Bob Newhart Show. The series is derivative. It is predictable. "You still in touch with your wife?" the pretty woman asks Hirsch. "Only by check," he says. In the end, it is just one big divorce joke. One old joke.

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