The news today is 'N.Y. News' doesn't deserve the space

September 28, 1995|By HAL BOEDEKER | HAL BOEDEKER,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Newspaper editor-in-chief Mary Tyler Moore turns the world off with her frown. Gossip columnist Madeline Kahn moans about a black eye. Ace columnist Gregory Harrison frets about exposing a crooked source.

Heartache propels the Big Apple journalism of CBS' "New York News." "A more dog-eating, back-biting, soul-stomping business I don't know of," editor Moore confides in tonight's premiere (9 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13).

Oh, Mare! You left out head-scratching, mind-numbing and channel-turning. No wonder the New York Reporter, a fictional tabloid, is close to folding. Scheduled opposite NBC's "Seinfeld," these presses won't roll for long.

At the end of this week's "New York News," it's unclear which stories have been written -- always a problem in a newspaper drama. The journalists have been busy breaking deadlines, playing social workers and carrying on like private investigators. Get me rewrite!

The show also supplies a scene I never thought I'd see: Mary Tyler Moore in the bathroom, begging for toilet paper. This is no way to treat a TV legend.

Is "New York News" the worst of the new CBS dramas? It's such a close call, what with "John Grisham's 'The Client' " and "Courthouse" fouling the schedule. The not-much-better "Central Park West" is a ratings disaster so far. These days, CBS has as much talent for drama as Lucy Ricardo had for singing.

The off-key scenes keep rolling by in "New York News." Columnist Angela Villanova (Melina Kanakaredes, who briefly played a journalist on "NYPD Blue") neglects a big story on prostitution to help a little girl wandering the streets.

The columnist confronts the girl's irresponsible parents and threatens to expose the bigwig papa as a deadbeat dad. "You don't have the guts!" he snaps.

The journalists here don't have time for interviewing -- they're too busy making scenes.

Morose columnist Jack Reilly (Mr. Harrison) spends his time searching his soul, acting like a private eye and giving journalism lectures to a disheartened newsroom intern. When exactly does he find time to write?

Flighty gossip columnist Nan Chase (Ms. Kahn) seems to have wandered in from a bad sitcom.

After suffering a shiner in a traffic accident, she interrupts a news meeting, demands that the medical writer treat her and mopes that she can't attend a Barbra Streisand concert.

"For God's sake, Fran, cork it!" editor Louise "the Dragon" Felcott (Ms. Moore) tells her.

The far-fetched script tosses in a suicidal taxi driver who takes himself hostage, a nose-ring-wearing cartoonist named Scar and a gushy newsroom clerk who buys staffers presents.

There's bad taste too: The gossip columnist learns that Preparation H will ease that black eye, then "New York News" cuts to a firefighter's funeral.

Now the casting might be a lure, what with Ms. Kahn, Ms. Moore and Mr. Harrison on board. Don't be fooled. Ms. Moore signed on for what is essentially a supporting role because the show is filmed in Manhattan. She seems to relish reprising her "Ordinary People" chilliness.

But she, over-the-top Kahn and usually reliable Joe Morton, as the cynical managing editor, can't redeem the material. Mr. Harrison doesn't have a chance as the heavy-hearted hunk.

Executive producer Michelle Ashford based tonight's script on a week's research of "friends and connections at a few papers in New York," she told TV critics this summer. She declined to reveal her sources "for many reasons."

Saving them embarrassment has to head the list.

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