Picks and Pans Review: Mike's Talent Show

updated 08/14/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Cinemax (Sat., Aug. 12, 10:30 P.M. ET)


Somewhere between David Letterman and Fernwood 2-Night lies this tongue-in-cheek parody of a 1950s television variety show, à la Ed Sullivan or Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour. Actually, it's a camp celebration of American banality, not unlike those spiffy yuppie restaurants that specialize in Mom's home cooking, with grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna melts and Jell-O desserts on the menu. Mike, the nerdy, deadpan emcee, is played by stand-up comic Michael Smith, who created the show off-off-Broadway. Taped at New York's Bottom Line, the hour-long special features a pie rack of off-the-wall performers, including country singer Lyle Lovett, comic Steven Wright and comic Kevin Meany, whose idea of entertainment is to croon tuneless songs with meaningless lyrics containing nothing but letters of the alphabet or numbers.

The show's highlights are two film clips funny enough to make you fall-down-go-boom. The first, an authentic excerpt from a '50s instructional film, shows a home-economics teacher analyzing the firmness of fruit jellies with her female students. The second is a home-movie parody in which an irate Italian mother refuses to be photographed, running out of her house and through the streets of Brooklyn to get away from the amateur director.

For the finale, Mike and his guests unite to sing a discordant rendition of "Up with People!" You may want to join in, unless this satiric smorgasbord of mediocrity has you in the bathroom chugging Alka-Seltzer.

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