'Uncle Buck' displays knack for stupidity, offensiveness

September 10, 1990|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

"Uncle Buck" is so bad that by the time Audrey Meadows walks on camera during the last five minutes she seems like Helen Hayes compared to the dearth of acting talent up to that point.

CBS' "Uncle Buck" is a spinoff of the feature film of the same name that starred John Candy. It is the kind of show that gives TV spinoffs such a bad name. It stars KevinMeany, who CBS says is a comedian. But you would never know it from tonight's pilot, which airs at 8 on WBAL-TV (Channel 11).

The premise is that Uncle Buck's brother and sister-in-law have died and he takes over his late brother's household, which includes three children: 6-year-old Maizy (Sarah Martineck), 8-year-old Miles (Jacob Gelman) and 16-year-old Tia (Dah-ve Chodan).

Uncle Buck, though, is hardly acandidate for parent of the year. He's ill-mannered. He chain-smokes cigars and eats mustard straight out of the plastic squeeze-bottle. He lives to play poker. One of the big laughs tonight is supposed to come when Buck throws his still-lit cigar butt into a fish tank and the fish swallows it. Ms. Meadows, who plays the children's grandmother, wants them out of Buck's custody.

The idea would be, of course, to make this lout loveable or at least amusing. For all its cliches about Buck's vulnerability and "heart of gold," tonight's script only shows ushis stupidity and offensiveness. Amusing? If a fish swallowing a cigar butt is your idea of humor, you'll be rolling in the aisles. Otherwise ...

"Uncle Buck" will probably distinguish itself by being the first show to get canceled. It has already managed to stand out from the pack of new shows for potentially offensive language and the coarsening of public discourse.

The first words said on the show are, "Miles, you suck." They are shouted by 6-year-old Maizy at her brother.

They could also serve as a crude critical assessment of this show.

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