Picks and Pans Review: Murphy's Law

updated 12/05/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/05/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sat., Dec. 3, 8 p.m. ET)

A-

Philip Marlowe meets Moonlighting—with a passing nod to The Odd Couple—In this delightfully inventive new detective show, which had a two-hour premiere last month but begins as a series here. George Segal stars as Murphy, a San Francisco insurance investigator who solves mysteries but has no desire to become a Dirty Harry—"I hate chasing," he moans, "almost as much as I hate hitting." He's a drunk who doesn't drink anymore, a loser who wants to be a former loser, a divorced dad who has to fight to see his daughter. He's a wonderful character, and he has one wonderful cohort: Maggie Han plays Segal's gorgeous roommate and partner in sexual tension, if not sex. She helps him on cases but earns extra money posing for power-tool calendars. She worries that she's no Cheryl Tiegs. "Aw," Segal assures her, "she's got nothin' on you even when you've got nothin' on." The show is filled with lots of wry dialogue, with Segal the poetry lover quoting Keats and then turning around and talking about a case of "murder by booga-booga ying yang." Okay, so insurance does not scream excitement. ABC has a thing for insurance. Three years ago the network gave Robert Wagner an actuarial table, making him an insurance investigator and sticking him in Lime Street. But this is nothing like that. This is sassy not sappy, campy not cutesy. This is one of the pleasant surprises of the season.

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