'Love and War' is a show you don't want to miss

September 21, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

The best pilot of the new season is here. It's "Love and War," the new sitcom from "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English.

Dan Quayle might not have had a great summer, but his favorite TV writer has been cooking on all four burners plus the microwave. If you're in the baby-boom age group and don't laugh out loud three times during the one-hour pilot, your name must be Marilyn Quayle.

Susan Dey, of "L.A. Law," and Jay Thomas, of "Murphy Brown," play opposites who attract in this series that seems to be all about attraction, dating, sex and relationships. Nobody even mentions family values.

Dey's character, Wally Porter, and Thomas' Jack Stein are from two very different worlds. They meet when Porter wanders into a seedy Manhattan bar where Stein is drinking.

Porter, the former owner of a chic Manhattan restaurant modeled on Elaine's, has just gotten divorced in the courthouse across the street. She has had to sell her restaurant to afford her ex-husband's alimony.

Stein is a newspaper columnist who believes feminism is dead and that the Japanese make better toaster ovens than we -- "and they don't even eat toast," he adds.

Porter proceeds to get drunk and then laugh at Stein as he tries to pick her up. "Take a look," she tells him, "the new car smell is gone." She gets so drunk, though, that she winds up buying the wretched bar -- "a place where flies come to die," she notes when she sobers up the next day. The bar was Jack Stein's favorite hangout -- the center of his social world.

This is a pilot and a series about second chances, cynicism, physical attraction and the romantic who lives inside us vs. the practical adults we pretend to be on the outside. There's Gershwin music played over the opening credits. And Porter and Stein dance to "Our Love Is Here To Stay," a song so old and romantic it makes "As Time Go By" seem contemporary.

There's a classy feel to "Love and War" that may remind you of the best of the 1940s and '50s romantic movies. Dey and Thomas play people you want to know and like and worry about at the end of the hour. In that way, it may be the most intimate hour of TV this fall. It's certainly one of the wisest.

'Love and War'

When: Tonight at 10

( Where: WBAL (Channel 11)

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