Whoever put the canned laughter in the first two episodes of "STAT," the new ABC sitcom, should have his or her hearing checked. The laugh track slobbers all over the actors' lines, getting in the way of what might be pretty funny stuff -- if we could hear it.
Outside of that large lapse of sensibility and judgment, the latest comedy from Danny Arnold, the creator of "Barney Miller," is both sweet and irreverent, an Arnold trademark.
The series -- about life in the emergency room of a big city hospital -- premieres at 9:30 tonight on WJZ-TV (Channel 13), replacing "Coach," which goes on hiatus but will return in May.
"STAT" stars Dennis Boutsikaris as Dr. Tony Menzies, the physician in charge of the emergency room. Boutsikaris' co-star is Alison LaPlaca as Dr. Elizabeth Newberry, a first-year resident.
He is reassuring when she is nervous. He is philosophical when she is inclined to be neurotic and overly conscientious.
Here's a typical exchange between them. Him: "This is an emergency room. He's alive. Let's get rid of him."
Her: "No, he's sick. He's in trouble. And he's mine."
Just as he did in "Barney Miller," Arnold creates a sitcom universe filled with eccentrics and wise guys, people who are in real trouble and people who are genuinely trying to help them. That makes this an easy show to like.
In tonight's episode, a man comes into the emergency room with mysterious pains in his lower abdomen. When his "nine months and change" pregnant wife comes in to see him and then goes into labor, he experiences full blown labor pains with her.
It is Arnold's way of telling us that some nuts are wonderful and some kinds of nuttiness are tremendously reassuring.
Message to ABC: STICK with "STAT."