In 'Flying,' Parker learns how to make the cookies crumble

NEW SERIES

September 11, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

The Fox network is now doing sophisticated comedies? Or at least sitcoms for people who don't need a learner's permit to drive a car?

This is a leap year and anything can happen, even "Flying Blind," which premieres Sunday night.

It stars Corey Parker, whom some female viewers have described as "luscious" and some critics have called memorable. He was the young housepainter Melissa fell for in "thirtysomething." For awhile there, Parker's story arc was the highlight of the series -- it was some arc.

Parker isn't playing luscious or anything like it in "Flying Blind." He's more like a young Woody Allen without all the whining or Kierkegaard references. In the pilot, Parker has all the sex appeal of a paint brush.

But this is Fox, so sex is very much in the air. In fact, it's everywhere Parker's character, Neil Barush, looks.

Neil is a twenty- something recent college graduate who gets a job in product research at a cookie company. The firm's cookies, one character explains to him, are shaped "like a perfect, small breast." Another line of cookies, Neil is told, are "too phallic."

The lives of Neil's co-workers begin, end and concentrate on sexual drives, sexual encounters, sexual fantasies and sexual disappointments. Anything else they manage to squeeze in during a 24-hourperiod is pure gravy -- or, maybe, icing on the oatmeal cookie.

Viewers over 30, looking for points of reference here, might think of "Moonlighting" or "The Graduate" -- though, not necessarily in terms of quality. But the dialogue comes almost as fast as in "Moonlighting." And Neil is a bit of a latter-day Dustin Hoffman from "The Graduate" -- naive, bright, willing to cut loose. Or, rather, be taught how to cut loose.

Most of the loose moments in the pilot come from Alisha, played by Tea Leoni. She's fabulous in the part and beautiful to look at. She enters the series and Neil's life in a restaurant and immediately engages him in an all-inclusive embrace. "Do you have anything to do or do you want to play with me?" she asks. She is hiding from her boyfriend.

"I just met you and your tongue is already lodged down my throat," Neil responds. She tells him that she knows what he's thinking: "You're wondering if I have a girlfriend like me and if you could sleep with both of us together."

All this before Neil or the viewer knows her name.

What viewers will know by the end of Sunday's show is that "Flying Blind" is going to be one of the more verbally risque comedies on the air this year -- an upscale "Married . . . With Children" for the twentysomething gang.

In the end, this isn't a sitcom with a lot of warmth or logic -- enough unlikely events happen at unlikely moments in the pilot to seriously stretch credibility. But it has its own kind of excitement.

It is filled with very good comic performances by performers willing to take chances. And it has the same manic energy of farce that filled the Marx Brothers' movies.

You didn't believe those movies either. But you still had a good time watching them.

Sexy comedy

What: "Flying Blind"

When: Sunday, 11 p.m.

Where: WBFF (Channel 45)

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