Picks and Pans Review: The John Larroquette Show

updated 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Thurs., Sept. 2, 9:30 p.m. ET)

B+

Those Night Court reunion parties must be pretty lavish affairs. Shrimp the size of hand puppets, ice sculpture, the works. Hey, they can afford it. Two years after the long-running NBC sitcom went off the air, the whole cast except Richard Moll is back in prime time: Markie Post in Hearts Afire, Charlie Robinson in Love & War, Marsha Warfield on Empty Nest and Harry Anderson in the upcoming Daw's World. But only Larroquette, who won bushels of Emmys as the randy Dan Fielding, gets a show named after him.

In this solid sitcom, Larroquette plays John Hemingway, an inveterate inebriate off the sauce for all of 36 hours and trying to re-enter sober society as the night manager at a seedy St. Louis bus terminal. Tough gig. His predecessor's chalk outline is still etched on the floor.

The humor is raucous and raunchy. For instance, Larroquette's assistant (Liz Torres) sets out some guidelines when they first meet: "I don't discuss religion with anyone from the South...and I don't put out for anybody at work—although if Andy Garcia walked in here right now, I would do him on your desk."

The premise allows for some loony situations. It's certainly the first sitcom whose pilot opens in an AA meeting. (There's another AA meeting in the second episode, giving singer and recovering addict David Crosby a memorable guest-starring role.) But really, Larroquette's battle against booze rings rather false so far. He's much too chipper and self-possessed for someone just coming off a serious 20-year bender. It seems to me a guy in his position would probably be too preoccupied with mastering essential skills like shirt-buttoning to be strolling around honing his repartee.

After this week the show settles in on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET. Even though they're on against Roseanne, if the writing stays sharp, there's a good chance that Larroquette and his fine supporting cast (Gigi Rice, Lenny Clarke and others) will be holding lavish reunion bashes of their own—several years from now.

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