Picks and Pans Review: George & Leo

updated 09/22/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1997 01:00AM

CBS (Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

A

Bob Newhart joins Judd Hirsch at a restaurant table for little more than a minute in the Sept. 15 premiere of this series—long enough to raise hopes for a continuing comedy feast. Hirsch silently sets Newhart's place from a sitting position, earning a bonus laugh by tossing a napkin onto his lap. Newhart, with his deliciously offbeat timing, mutters a funny line between mouthfuls of salad. And already we're thinking of making a standing Monday-night reservation.

The premise is The Odd Couple cum The In-Laws. George (Newhart) is a square widower who owns a bookshop on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Leo (Hirsch) is a raffish magician and Mafia bagman who shows up on the island for the wedding of his long estranged daughter Casey (Bess Meyer) and George's restaurateur son Ted (Jason Bateman). Having run afoul of Las Vegas mobsters, Leo will be taking refuge in George's spare bedroom, adding stress and zest to the bookseller's quiet life. Hirsch and Newhart are a study in comic contrasts: glib and stammering, tall and short, Jew and gentile. Both know from rich experience (The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi) that sitcom acting is nothing without reacting. If this show reaches its potential, they'll be feeding off each other for years.

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