. NBC's MIDSEASON comedy entry "Blossom" is a show that's as hard to predict as the emotional state of an adolescent.
Just when you think it's a cliche-ridden swayback trained by a bunch of hack comedy writers, it breaks from the gate with an intriguing scene worthy of a thoroughbred.
Then, just when you think it is an insightful, carefully drawn portrait that pulls back the curtain on that tragi-comedy known as adolescence, it turns into a bad baggy-pants comedian trotting out its stable of hackneyed cliches.
Suffice it to say that the first two episodes -- it gets a post-"Cosby" preview tonight at 8:30 on Channel 2 (WMAR) before moving into its regular slot Monday at 8:30 -- are uneven.
Indeed, it looks as if "Blossom" will be a case of failing to live up to its potential, a large amount of which arrives in the person of its star, Mayim Bialak.
First seen cavorting with Bette Midler in the sob-sister movie "Beaches," Bialak was immediately dubbed a star of the future. Fox had her in a fish-out-of-water sitcom called "Molloy" this summer, about the same time she signed up to play a fish-out-of-water in "Blossom."
Bialak is Blossom Russo, who is coming of age in a house full of males who just don't understand. In tonight's opener, she gets ++ her first period, and while there are some seat-squirming lines that should never have lived past the first rewrite, there are also some poignant, touching and very funny moments.
Blossom's mother headed off at midlife to seek her career as a singer. She's being raised by her musician father Nick, played by Ted Wass, who's also handling two older sons, Anthony, a
former drug abuser played by Michael Sotyanov, and Joey, a semi-stud played by Joey Lawrence. Ellen Brennan does a nice comic turn as an eccentric neighbor who is Blossom's mother substitute.
Wass' role is one of the show's major cliches as his character does little more than wander in and out looking alternately harried and concerned as if he's wearing a sign reading "I'm Doing the Best I Can Under the Circumstances!"
It's in the characters of the brothers that "Blossom" really slips on the proverbial banana peel. Here's this sensitive, dedicated father who has raised this sensitive, insightful daughter and for some reason Lenny and Squiggy have come to live with them.
These boys have no business in this house. They are there simply as comic devices. You keep expecting one of them to pull out a seltzer bottle and start squirting people.
But just when you're ready to dismiss this show, Bialak's Blossom pulls you back. She captures so perfectly in her face all the ambiguities of adolescence: too pretty to ever be considered ugly, yet without those teen cover girl features that breed confidence.
Bialak's frown conveys the terrible traumas of those years, but when her smile breaks out it's an exquisite reminder of what an exciting, exuberant time of life it is as you stand poised on the edge of the pool about to dive into the deep end.
Next Monday she has to fight her way through family prejudices to a prom date with the dreamy boy who happens to be her brother's best friend.
So it looks as though "Blossom" will stick to standard teen traumas. Only if the writing lives up to the standards of its star will this show transcend its built-in audience of 13-year-old girls and become the hit it has the potential to be.
*** A girl faces her teen-age years in a household of one harried dad and two older brothers.
CAST: Mayim Bialak, Ted Wass
TIME: Tonight at 8:30, then Mondays at 8:30
CHANNEL: NBC Channel 2 (WMAR)