The cuteness of babies can only get you so far. In the case of ABC's new sitcom, "Baby Talk," it gets you through about five minutes before the banality of one of the season's worst new shows comes through clearly.
"Baby Talk" is a spinoff of the movie "Look Who's Talking." As in the film, the baby can, indeed, talk. However, in the film, the baby made clever, wiseacre comments about the state of his life. In the sitcom, the baby makes stupid jokes.
"Newhart" veteran Julia Duffy plays the mother with a certain degree of competence but for some reason she's surrounded by a troika of contractors working on her apartment -- one imagines they are supposed to do for her what Eldon does for Murphy
Brown -- whose shtick makes the Three Stooges look subtle by comparison.
In tonight's show, at 8:30 on Channel 13 (WJZ) -- it will assume its regular time slot of Fridays at 9:30 next week -- Mom falls for the handsome single Dad at the pediatrician's but the real
electricity is between their two kids. The attempt at witty repartee by two babies comes off as stiff, stilted and stupid.
Having a curmudgeonly baby talk was a gimmick that worked for one film. It couldn't carry a sequel and it can't carry a series. "Baby Talk" is a bad idea, poorly executed.
Leave it to the French. The Shoshone Indians, who lived in thi spectacular valley in the state now known as Wyoming, had a perfectly suitable name for the rugged mountains that towered above. The called them The Hoary-Headed Father.
But then some French trappers came along and, alone for months in the wilderness, came up with another name. The Three Breasts. Though no one has probably told Donald Wildmon, we casually use a form of that name right in front of the children. Without the benefit of translation, we call these mountains the Grand Tetons.
That's one of the facts you'll learn from PBS' always-excellent Nature series Sunday night at 8 o'clock on Maryland Public Television, Channels 22 and 67. "Grand Teton Wilderness" is a tribute to this magnificent hunk of real estate where man and nature seem to have struck a delicate balance, thanks to tradition, laws and geography.
The tradition, as recollected by Margaret Murie, who has helped to care for and record the details of the natural environment of these parts for about 60 years, is one of respect between the ranchers and the local elk herd.
Apparently realizing that their ranching had reduced the elks' grazing ground, the ranchers took to feeding the herd in the winter decades ago. Partly this was to defend their piles of hay, but maybe it was also due to some lingering guilt over what the white men had just finished doing to the buffalo.
"Grand Teton Wilderness" is a year-in-the-life look at this part of the earth, from the harshness of winter to the promise of spring, the lushness of summer to the threat of fall. It doesn't just show the elk and bison, which have returned in limited numbers, it also tells you about the life-of-Riley-like marmots who eat for two months and then sleep for 10, and the beavers, nature's own Army Corps of Engineers, who turn out to be proficient meadow-builders.
The photography is, as usual with this series, serene and beautiful. The setting is sublime. The story is one of ecological success. What more could you ask for from an hour of television?
And speaking of Maryland Public Television, tonight's Great Performances at 9 o'clock is something of a tease. It's about Fred Astaire's talents as a singer. Constantly during the hour, he finishes a song and starts to dance -- and they cut it off!
Okay, Astaire had a way with a song despite his vocal limitations and it's nice to see that recognized. Still, don't torture us like this. Turns out to be something a test because if you can put up with it, the final act rewards you with some extended dance segments.
A couple of scheduling notes from ABC. The consummation episode of "Anything But Love," pre-empted by President Bush's speech to Congress Wednesday night, will run next Wednesday in the show's time slot. And "Twin Peaks" will return with its remaining, and perhaps, final six original episodes on Thursday nights at 9 o'clock starting March 28.
` "Baby Talk" * The series version of "Look Who's Talking" has a wise-cracking baby, son of a New York single mother, whose voice is heard only by the audience, and other babies.
CAST: Julia Duffy, voice of Tony Danza
TIME: Tonight at 8:30, then Fridays at 9:30
CHANNEL: ABC Channel 13 (WJZ)