Fox's 'Great Scott!' uses boy's fantasies to appeal to preteens

October 02, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

"Great Scott!" is a new Fox series for the ten-or-elevensomething crowd.

The pilot, which airs Sunday on WBFF (Channel 45), features the fantasies and daydreams of a 14-year-old as he: a) answers the door b) goes to gym class c) misses the bus and d) talks on the phone to a girl.

Tobey Maguire plays Scott Melrod as the boy who's at the stage between needing a baby sitter and a date for the prom. Maguire's Melrod is likable, confused, funny and ever so vulnerable.

But this is a Fox show after all, so, the most important things to know about Melrod is that he has a set of impossibly nosy and overbearing parents and his very best fantasies and daydreams are about girls who seem a whole lot more mature and self-confident than he could ever hope to be.

Bad parents and good sexual daydreams: the Fox formula for winning the hearts of teen and preteen viewers.

Melrod's fantasies are in no way graphically sexual. They are more along the lines of adolescent-boy longing and wanting to be found attractive by girl classmates.

In fact, there are times in the pilot when Melrod's daydreams about the opposite sex are almost touching. "Touching" is not a word often used in reviews of teen shows on Fox. It is used here with great caution and should not be confused with Dylan touching various parts of Brenda's body on "Beverly Hills,

90210."

The show might even be making a statement about the world of imagination being the only truly private space teens have when their parents and teachers are always in their face. Although I fear that talking about a Fox teen show making "statements" truly takes me beyond the pale.

But "Great Scott!" is a smart show. It's smart counterprogramming against "60 Minutes," going for an audience to whom Mike Wallace means nothing. And it should ultimately appeal to anyone who has: a) hated gym class at one time or another b) been embarrassed by his or her parents c) thought themselves to be totally out of it as they approached their first date or d) found reality just a bit too much at times.

'GREAT SCOTT!'

When: Sunday 7 p.m.

Where: WBFF (Channel 45)

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