'Wild Oats': Fox's crop for twentysomethings

TURNED ON IN L.A.

July 16, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Los Angeles -- You might think a show called "Wild Oats," which will follow "Married . . . With Children" on Fox's big Sunday-night lineup this fall, is only about sex.

Not so, says Jana Marie Hupp, one of the four stars of the sitcom about twentysomething singles living in Chicago. She believes "Wild Oats" has something more important to say about -- and to -- persons in their 20s.

Reacting negatively to the term "Generation X," which surfaced in a question from a fortysomething TV critic yesterday, Hupp said, "I think the entire concept of Generation X has really been around forever. There's always been a small amount of twentysomethings who have dropped out, were feeling apathetic, that weren't working.

"But there's also an enormous [number] of twentysomethings out there that need to be represented. And I think they probably resent having that label put on them. They are productive. They want success in life -- monetary, social, emotional, intellectual and otherwise.

"And I think it's important to represent these people, too. They're out there. I'm sure they probably eclipse the Generation X -- quote, unquote -- group of people. And I think that's what we do very, very well in this show -- represent them."

Paul Stephen Rudd, one of Hupp's co-stars, agreed. "It seems like Generation X has become synonymous with slacker. I mean, what is Generation X, anyway?"

"How about Generation Sex? That seems more appropriate, actually, doesn't it?" Hupp concluded.

OK, so it did get back to sex. But in the middle was some sociology and a bit of generational talk that helps explain why "Wild Oats" will be worth catching when it debuts.

Like Hupp's speech, the pilot for the show always returns to sex (and some of it is pretty stupid because it's not couched in terms of safe sex). But there is potentially more going on in this show than is suggested by the Fox synopsis: "A half-hour ensemble comedy depicting the roller-coaster lives of a group of out-all-night twentysomethings living in Chicago."

"Wild Oats" is about two sets of roommates. There's Hupp's character, Liz, and her roommate, Shelly (Paula Marshall). Then there's Rudd's character, Brian, and his roommate, Jack (Tim Conlon).

Jack and Shelly were a couple, but they split up six months ago. Now Brian and Shelly are a couple, but it's driving Jack crazy. Liz has her own problems. She meets awful guys at the Hangar, a singles bar. Jack visits the bar with Tonya and Tasha, two young sisters who seem to know about nothing but sex.

Got all that? It doesn't matter. What's important is that the show rises above Tonya and Tasha, and achieves some of the modest goals producer Lou Diamond and Hupp have for it.

"I know this isn't Shakespeare," Diamond says. "The main idea here idea is to to tell a fun story entertainingly. . . . Situation comedies mainly entertain.

"I think what we hope to achieve, though, is to show, in a positive light, friendship -- friendship between the two guys and a positive sort of love situation in the middle. It's most of all the VTC idea of good young people trying to make their way in the world. These are all working people with a modicum of success. There are no slackers in this bunch.

"If, coincidentally, that affects positive approaches toward people in their 20s, we would love to see that happen."

A footnote: Rudd and Conlon are in their 20s. Marshall won't say how old she is. Diamond is fortysomething.

And, as for Hupp, "I am 30-years-old and I'm very proud to say that," she says. "I am a strong, happy, intelligent, sexy 30-year-old."

Back to sex again. The challenge for "Wild Oats" is to go beyond its title.

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