Short's show comes up short

September 15, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Martin Short is brilliant. But his pilot for "The Martin Short Show," which premieres at 8:30 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2), is mainly rubber-bands-and-glue.

It's such a paste-up job of skits, bits and half-thought-out plot ideas that I honestly can't say if it will ever come together as a sitcom. There's simply not enough real sitcom material on which to base a decision.

I think Paula Poundstone is a brilliant comedian, too. Remember the disaster of half-developed ideas that she threw up on the screen as a variety show for ABC last fall?

The idea of "The Martin Short Show" is that of a show-within-a-show. Think of it as somewhere between Danny Thomas' "Make Room for Daddy" and Garry Shandling's "The Larry Sanders Show."

Short plays a character named Marty, who is star of his own comedy/variety show. Part of the sitcom takes place at home with Marty as father and husband; part takes place at the studio where Marty is star; part takes place inside Marty's head.

The best part of tonight's show has Short's deliciously weird Ed Grimley character mistaken for the president of the United States. It ends with Sally Field walking in on a naked Ed as he's taking a shower. The action is all taking place in Marty's mind -- I think.

Wherever it's taking place, it's very funny stuff. But the transition back to Marty as sitcom dad is hopeless. I don't think it's so much that Short is unable to act, as it is a problem with energy levels. At his very best, Short is a high-wire performer -- high-energy and on the edge.

But sitcoms are relatively low-energy affairs. They are consistent, familiar, predictable, comfortable -- like "Seinfeld" or "The Cosby Show." "The Martin Short Show" feels more like an extended sketch for late-night TV than a prime-time sitcom.

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