Ultra-contemporary 'Mommies' are funny the kids are a pain TV PREVIEWS

September 18, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

"We come from the suburbs where we explore our Webers instead of our sexuality. We don't want sex more than once a month. And the difference between us and June Cleaver is that her kids didn't need an attorney."

Meet The Mommies.

In real life they are Marilyn Kentz, 45, and Caryl Kristensen, 32, mommies from suburban California, who three years ago formed a stand-up comedy act based on their lives of car pools, morning sickness and PTA meetings.

Tonight at 9 on WMAR (Channel 2), they debut in "The Mommies," an NBC sitcom based on their comedy act.

In the series, Kentz plays Marilyn Larson, a 45-year-old homemaker with a husband, a 16-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. Kristensen plays Caryl Kellogg, a 32-year-old homemaker with a husband and two sons, ages 9 and 7. She's pregnant. Kellogg and Larson are next-door neighbors and best friends on a California cul-de-sac.

In a new TV season of wall-to-wall kids where nothing is as cool as baby-boomer parenting, "The Mommies" is certainly on the money in terms of subject matter.

Listen to the following speech made by Larson to her son, Adam (Shiloh Strong):

"Adam, I'm a child of the '60s. I was at Woodstock. Naked. There is no way for you to rebel that I haven't already tried. I've done it all. I know it all. And I'm always going to catch your little butt."

Is this the ultimate boomer-as-mom speech or what?

Speaking of butts, Larson's daughter, Kasey (Ashley Peldon), is a tremendous pain in the butt as one of the TV season's most annoyingly precocious kids.

When Adam says he's not getting dressed without his black T-shirt, Kasey says, "He's going through his dark period, Mom."

Overall, this is a losing crop of sitcom kids.

But Larson and Kellogg seem like a couple of women worth getting to know. The most appealing thing about them is their generally unsentimental take on marriage and motherhood seen through Roseanne-colored glasses.

For example, the pregnant Kellogg is standing over the stove fixing breakfast when her husband sidles up to her and romantically says, "There's a special glow about you this morning."

"Yeah, it's from hanging over the bathroom bowl," she replies.

There's lots of frank and funny talk between the two friends about vasectomies, childbirth, sexual fantasies, teen sex, leotard thongs and exercise class. This is not, "Beaver, Wally, Ward, dinner's ready. Wash your hands."

But the problem with "The Mommies" -- and it's a big one -- is that the producers have failed to craft a believable sitcom universe to house the funny and pointed material from Kentz and Kristensen.

The next-door neighbor concept is OK. But the execution is awful. The camera moves from living room to living room in the two houses in such a way that it looks like a bad stage play. Viewers are literally shown the set with the two partial living rooms sharing a common wall. Such camera shots break the fantasy of the sitcom world, which the producers otherwise try to sustain.

Given another six months of production, "The Mommies" might have become a terrific sitcom. But, as it is, "The Mommies" might not last six weeks in its regular time period opposite the powerhouse "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" on CBS. ** 1/2

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