If Gaby's sitcom reflects her life, it should succeed

March 14, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Precocious doesn't start to describe Gaby Hoffman, the 12-year-old star of "Someone Like Me," a new NBC sitcom about a girl's coming-of-age that premieres tonight.

Her screen credits include "Field of Dreams," "This Is My Life," "Man Without a Face" and "Sleepless in Seattle." She can tell backstage tales about everyone from Andy Warhol to Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner.

"Gaby was born 40 years old," says her mother, Viva. "She's mature, organized and knows what she wants."

Gaby says her mother embarrasses her. "What can I say? It's true."

That's another thing about Gaby, she doesn't pull any punches.

NBC is hoping this kind of tell-it-like-is attitude will make *T "Someone Like Me" the next "Blossom," a Nielsen Top-20,

girl-coming-of-age sitcom on NBC.

In the series, Gaby plays a highly opinionated 12-year-old living with her mother, stepfather, older sister and younger brother. The family is middle class and lives in St. Louis. Because mom works, Gaby baby-sits the 4-year-old boy a lot.

Tonight's pilot was not available for preview, but the Gaby attitude is suggested in an upcoming episode, when her mom orders Gaby to go to bed despite the fact Gaby wants to stay up.

"Doesn't it strike you as odd that you trust me with the life of your child, but you don't think I know when to go to bed?" Gaby asks sarcastically.

Gaby says she never had a bedtime in real life; her real mom would let her stay up as late as she wanted.

Gaby and her real mom, now that's a story.

Viva was a 1960s star of several Warhol movies. Gaby and her older sister, Alexandra, grew up in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City -- a place that was, well, a lot like a Warhol film.

"I would stay up and watch TV late," Gaby says. "Sometimes I wouldn't go to school. Like, if I really didn't want to, I'd talk my mom into letting me stay at home. And we'd just, like, watch 'The Brady Bunch' all day."

Life at the Chelsea, Gaby says, "was really crazy. You look down the hall, there was a woman who, every day, she wore a different wig. She wore plastic clothing. Platforms. Plastic frogs all over her. And a plastic gun. And I used to imitate her. She used to pull out a gun and start singing . . . "

Childhood at the Chelsea also offered such pleasures at meeting Madonna, and Warhol dropping by with dolls for her. "I got to experience a lot more than other children that I know," Gaby says with some understatement.

In at least one way, though, Gaby thinks she's the same as lots of other kids her age: her taste in TV shows.

" 'Blossom' is my favorite show," she says. "And I like it because I think it's real. Things like that do happen. And it's not like most of the other shows that are on, where it's, like, the kids aren't lTC realistic and their problems aren't realistic."

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