Picks and Pans Review: Bakersfield P.d.

updated 07/25/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

(Fox, Thursdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

A

This cop comedy was by far the funniest program of the new season last fall. And it was the lowest-rated one. Even news specials on healthcare legislation could get a higher Nielsen share.

Fox never gave Bakersfield lime to find an audience for this low-key satire of small-town life and other police shows. It was quickly put on "hiatus" (TV-speak for "get it out of our sight"), but now the network has generously decided to revive the program for a summer-run coup de grâce.

Bakersfield is Hill Street Blues meets Mayberry R.F.D.—with an attitude. Giancarlo Esposito stars as an African-American big-city cop who transfers to Bakersfield, Calif., a town of nearly 200,000 people about 100 miles from Los Angeles, and ends up working with a collection of the strangest yokels this side of Floyd the Barber. Among them is a partner raised on TV cop shows (Ron Eldard) and a captain (Jack Hallett) who can never make decisions, whether he's ordering lunch or a drug raid.

The jokes arc subtle, the show laugh-trackless; and in such episodes as this week's "There Goes the Neighborhood"—in which Esposito attempts to move into a white area—there are attempts to fold in a moral or two without getting pedantic about it.

This series is as funny as TV gets, which doesn't necessarily mean much for the show's future in a world where Full House is considered a valuable commodity.

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