Picks and Pans Review: Oliver Beene

updated 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

COMEDY

FOX (Sundays, 7:30 p.m. ET)

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Noting that a classmate is nicknamed Nickname, a seventh grader in the early 1960s remarks, "It's so...not modern, but whatever it is that will come after modern."

I admit I didn't appreciate Oliver Beene's postmodernism when it premiered last year. Because it presents a kid's misadventures as narrated by his grown-up self, I thought it was little more than a Wonder Years ripoff. Now I realize that the characters are sort of standing outside their time period—standing outside themselves, really—and sharing the irony with us.

Unfortunately, none of this makes the show much funnier in its second season. A Feb. 4 preview (9:30 p.m.) earns laughs with one storyline—Oliver's parents (Grant Shaud and Wendy Makkena) experience reefer madness—but Oliver (Grant Rosenmeyer) a gets into a stock situation when he goes gaga for an older Swedish exchange student. And though the official season opener (Feb. 8) offers a good joke or two at the funeral of a half-forgotten relative, most of the comedy is labored.

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