Picks and Pans Review: The Powers That Be

updated 03/09/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1992 01:00AM

NBC (Saturdays, 8:30 P.M. ET)

C+

The newest sitcom from Norman (All in the Family) Lear is a blithely bitter political satire.

John (Dynasty) Forsythe plays William Powers, a dim if well-manicured four-term Senator from New England. Holland (Bosom Buddies) Taylor plays his arrogant, image-obsessed wife. Eve Gordon plays the Senator's ruthlessly efficient chief of staff—so efficient she is also his hotsy-totsy mistress. Peter MacNicol plays his manic: press secretary, to whom everything is a crisis. Valerie Mahaffey plays Forsythe's insecure daughter and David Pierce his catatonically depressed son-in-law. Finally there's Robin Bartlett, Forsythe's trashy, gum-snapping illegitimate daughter.

The characters, all pretty horrid, come equipped with easy-to-read stigmata: Mahaffey is anorexic and keeps passing out; Pierce is suicidal and has to shoot his cuffs to hide his wrist bandages; Forsythe, whenever he's caught off-base, does a Reagan-esque head waggle that makes him look like a bobble-head doll; worst, Bartlett has a New Jersey accent. The writing is knee-jerk cynical ("Now, don't you ever dream about chucking it all—the lies, the deceit?" the Senator asks his mistress. "You mean give up politics?" she responds), and the whole cast wildly overacts. Still, it's a lot sharper than Walter and Emily, the creaky sitcom it replaces.

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