"American Dreamer" is one of the funnier and smarter sitcoms of the new fall season. It also introduces one of the most off-the-wall but engaging new characters anywhere on television Lillian Abernathy, played by Carol Kane.
Kane is not the star of "American Dreamer." Robert Urich is. Urich plays Tom Nash, a former foreign news correspondent who quit television three years ago when his wife died.
Nash is now living in rural Wisconsin with his two teen-age children and writing a weekly lifestyle column for a Chicago newspaper. He mainly writes about middle-aged men (like himself) trying to get in touch with their feelings (like he is) and relate in more meaningful ways with women and each other (like he wants to do).
Nash explains the column this way while interviewing Abernathy for a job as his assistant. "The columns I write are really human interest pieces," hesays. "They're about things that are very personal to me, things I wonder about, things that touch my life."
Kane has been listening with a look of puzzlement. Suddenly she brightens, "Oh, you mean fluff."
"Well, one man's fluff is another man's fire," Nash says.
"Oooohh, I have chills," she replies.
That kind of bright, snappy dialogue permeates tonight's pilot, which airs at 9:30 on WMAR-TV (Channel 2). The job interview scene between Nash and Abernathy is a delight. The delight is generated more by Kane than Urich -- though together they are a nifty comic couple. Kane -- perhaps best known as Simka, the girlfriend of Latka on "Taxi" -- plays a woman recentlydumped by her husband. She has great anger toward men, but she's trying to be all sweetness and light during the interview. She plays the tension like a comic version of Linda Blair in "The Exorcist," one minute a smiling little applicant, the next screaming that she can't "even walk by a men's room." It is great stuff.
Tonight's show is about Nash going back and looking up the woman he stood up more than 20 years ago at their senior prom. He wants to apologize, because he fears he ruined her life. She is a successful attorney who barely remembers him.
"American Dreamer" will grow on you. Next week, Nash organizes a men's encounter group. Abernathy is helping him put out snacks before the men arrive. "I'm not sure about the soda," she says. "What do men drink when they're bonding?"