TV: New TV Land series ‘Kirstie’ has famous faces and not much else

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl
Kirstie premieres Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 10 p.m. on TV Land
Rating: 2/5

Kirstie Cast Photo

TV Land is taking us to a place where we know everybody’s name.

In February, TV Land announced it was greenlighting a new show focusing on Kirstie Alley. Ingeniously, it’s called Kirstie and is premiering Wednesday night. It’s the most recent example in a slew of attempts for networks to boost ratings by bringing old favorite stars back on the screen (see: The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World). As a side note, those are two new NBC shows and the three main stars of Kirstie — Alley stars alongside Cheers alum Rhea Perlman and Seinfeld star Michael Richards — are all old NBC classic show alums. I guess NBC stars are recycling enthusiasts.

I had high hopes for Kirstie. I thoroughly enjoy Hot in Cleveland on TV Land but have not been able to say anything similar for its other original programming. Sorry Soul Man, I just don’t feel it. So I thought with funny woman Alley at the helm with other syndicated comedy vets, this show stood the chance of being sassy, smart and sharp. I was somewhat correct but mostly not.

The Post was sent a press copy of the pilot, third and fourth episodes for review, so you lucky folks get an early warning.

Kirstie follows Madison Banks (Alley), a Broadway diva, who is reunited with her son Arlo (Eric Petersen), whom she put up for adoption 26 years ago. But she isn’t going the journey alone. She has quick-tongued assistant Thelma (Perlman) and zany driver Frank (Richards) to help her figure out how to be the mother Arlo wants and needs, especially since his adoptive mother has recently passed away.

In the beginning of the pilot and every now and then throughout a few of the episodes, there are some smart one-liners, but that’s about it. The show honestly starts out pretty strong. The comedy is there and Alley seemed comfortable in the role. Then the show progressed. It was blatantly obvious to me at how restricted Alley acted on the show. It’s no secret that Alley is a rather outspoken lady and this seems too clichéd for her to want to stay. She’s fidgety and the hand gestures are simply all over the place. I like Alley. I think she could do a lot more with her TV comeback.

Maddie Says HelloI liked in the beginning how Alley’s character Madison seemed quite similar to Wendie Malick’s Victoria Chase from Hot in Cleveland, TV Land’s first original series. Both are major divas — one from Broadway and the other television — and both are quite hilariously selfish and egotistical. However, Malick has managed to keep that funniness of the character alive for the entirety of Hot in Cleveland while Alley’s hilarity withers even within the pilot.

Again, there are a handful of one-liners that are brilliant and definitely had me laughing. However, a show cannot be built upon one-liners. Comedy in writing can’t be just bits and pieces here and there that make me chuckle in between blank stares of boredom. The comedy has to be woven throughout the show and has to be its overall element and feel. Kirstie’s overall feel is a walking cliché. The plot isn’t original and the episode storylines themselves aren’t that original either.

The worst part is that the show is heavily relying on famed TV actors to carry the weight of poor comedic dialogue. Big names attached to a project don’t guarantee life! And trying to bring in a never-ending list of famous friends really isn’t going to help. Expect to see John Travolta, Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Griffin, Cloris Leachman, Jason Alexander and George Wendt to all guest star in this 12-episode season. I’m not name-dropping, but the show obviously is.

I have to say that while Alley is kind of at a loss, Richards thrives in his small supporting role. Every time he’s on camera, he steals the show. Somehow, his character is still written well while everyone else’s is quite subpar. Unfortunately, the same can’t exactly be said for Perlman. She does have the occasional good quip or two, however her comedy is continually directed at Alley’s character and her issues with food and men. Perlman is funny but the comedy is too cliché to work every time.

Newcomer Petersen is a major hit and miss. Like Alley’s character, Petersen’s Arlo can be quite whiny and even hypocritical. While he does spawn that charm every now and then, it isn’t enough to save his performance and the character itself. Petersen won’t be known to the masses but he has been featured in several prominent musicals on Broadway and in national tours of Shrek the Musical and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I almost want to send a letter to most of the theater houses in New York to ask the actors not to transfer to a TV series. We all saw how badly Smash failed and it was largely due to the fact that the actors who were all Broadway favorites simply didn’t transfer well onto the small screen. I feel somewhat similar with Petersen. The cliché moments of seriousness are just that, clichéd, and so is his performance.

The age of his character also makes the show a bit more awkward than it needs to be. He’s 26. Does he really not have anything better in his life than to crash at his biological mother’s New York pad?

I think you get the point. The show’s not terrible but it is solely comprised of unoriginal storylines. Put it on in the background as you prep for finals or unwind from work. It’s certainly not a show I see becoming anything more than what it is: an attempt to court audiences with familiar faces and no worthwhile writing.

What did you think of Kirstie? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

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