One-note performances keep 'Lenny' from realizing its potential

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

The idea at CBS is that "Lenny" is supposed to out-blue collar ABC's "Roseanne."

It is about as good as most ideas at last-place CBS these days.

Lenny Callahan (Lenny Clark) is another television character, like Uncle Buck, who comes off as more offensive than funny. For example, Lenny is told tonight that his father needs an artificial hip, which will cost $25,000. "Twenty-five thousand!" Lenny screams at the doctor. "For $25,000 I can cure him. A pizza, six hookers and a Lincoln Town Car."

The situation behind this sitcom is that Lenny is a struggling hard-hat worker by day and a hotel doorman by night raising a family.

Tonight's episode, which airs at 8:30 on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), centers on Lenny's father (Eugene Roche) needing the artificial hip. But his insurance will pay only 80 percent. Lenny feels it's his duty tocome up with the other $5,000.

That situation could be touching, but is played flat because neither Roche nor Clark ever manages to get past their one-note performances. Imagine Archie Bunker without the vulnerability and with, say, Dick Butkus instead of Carroll O'Connor.

This is a show that doesn't know whether it wants to be Fox's "Married ... With Children," ABC's "Roseanne" or NBC's "Parenthood." Stealing a little from each is not the way to get their kind of ratings. It's the way to make a hodgepodge that appears headed for the scrap heap unless at least another dimension is added to Lenny's character.

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