Awful 'Monty' is bad reincarnation of Archie Bunker

January 11, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

The Fonz as Rush Limbaugh.

Who but those wacky folks at Fox -- the ones who brought us Chevy Chase as a comatose late-night host -- could have come up with this concept?

"Monty," the new Fox sitcom star- ir,6p6,7l ring Henry Winkler as a conservative talk show host, isn't as awful as Chase was as a late-night host. But then again, it's pretty bad. In fact, it's just this side of "The Trouble With Larry" and "The Paula Poundstone Show" bad. It's awful in its own mindless way.

In the show, which premieres at 8 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45), Winkler plays Monty Richardson, host of a cable TV talk show. The Fox promotional ads describe him this way: "Just because he's an uptight, right-wing, conservative, male chauvinist pig . . . doesn't make him a bad guy."

By way of defining Richardson's politics, the producers show him playing "Pin the Lie on the Democrat," using a picture of a donkey with President Clinton's face super-imposed. Richardson also has a "Find a Blind Date for Janet Reno Contest" as part of his cable TV talk show. He makes lots of jokes about killing whales and "baby seals."

But guess what? At home, he's a lovable dad, who winds up embracing his son after the young man returns from a European trip with a feminist girlfriend and the desire to be a chef instead of a lawyer.

The humor tonight is supposed to flow from the clash of values between Richardson and his son. But everything is so predictable and old-hat that some viewers are going to be checking their TV Guide to make sure they aren't watching a lame '70s rerun.

"Monty" isn't really the Fonz as Limbaugh. It's the Fonz as a bad imitation of Archie Bunker.

The entire show has a sensibility that's about 15 years out of date. And Winkler is still using Fonzie moves from "Happy Days." In the big emotional scene, he looks sideways at his son and says, "Heyyyyy, come heah," ordering him in that mock-tough Fonzie voice to give him a big hug. Where's Pinky Tuscadero when you need her?

In the end, the show might not be worth much mention, except for its value as indicator of popular taste and culture. What's it say about us in 1994 that we not only have the real Rush Limbaugh, but now we have a network sitcom celebrating him, too?

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