Another far-out comedy TV preview: "Aliens in the Family," from the Henson factory, is more offbeat but smart television in the "ALF" and "Mork" tradition.

March 15, 1996|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Millions of American kids are going to meet a new television mom tonight when ABC premieres "Aliens in the Family " at 9 on WMAR (Channel 2). So, real moms best be prepared to be judged against her and found wanting.

Her name is Cookie and she has an I.Q. of 5,000. She also has blue foam baffles where her ears should be and just quit her job as a recombinant DNA scientist on another planet.

Cookie was a single mom with three kids until recently, when she abducted an Earth guy named Doug Brody a single dad with two kids who is so ordinary and middle-class that he could be the brother of ALF's Willie Tanner or the father of Mork's Mindy McConnell. (Yes, he could even be the older brother of Uncle Martin's Tim O'Hara, too.)

Initially, Cookie (Margaret Trigg) only wanted to use Doug (John Bedford Lloyd) for scientific experiments, but, well, you know how it is in those alien spaceships late at night when you are recombining someone's DNA with DNA from another species. Cookie and Doug fell in love, married, settled with their five kids in Doug's suburban house and are now the Brodys a very, Brady Brody bunch, indeed.

"Aliens in the Family" is so postmodern in its playful recombination of elements from previous sitcoms, like "The Brady Bunch" and "My Favorite Martian," that we probably need a new term for it the re-com. Along with "The Muppets," which premiered last week, it definitely revitalizes ABC's Friday night kids' lineup.

Like "The Muppets," "Aliens" has the brainpower of Brian Henson and his late father's Jim Henson's Productions behind it. But while Henson's animatronics and puppetry are again fabulous when it comes to creating Cookie's three kids 14-year-old Spit, 10-year-old Snizzy and baby Bobut the real creators of the series are Henson's two co-executive producers, Susan and Andy Borowitz.

This husband-and-wife team is no newcomer to aliens, sitcoms and finding new combinations for hit formulas. Shortly after graduating from Harvard, the pair took the premise of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and turned it into "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" with Will Smith as the inner-city kid from Philadelphia who suddenly finds himself an alien in the strange suburban Los Angeles land of plenty.

The Borowitzes and Brian Henson have delivered a sitcom to Disney/ABC that is retro, weird and occasionally even goofy. But it is also intelligent in the reflexively cultural way that "Mork" and "ALF" were.

Such smarts aside, what will probably spell success or failure for the series is whether young children take to baby Bobut, the Henson creation with the prehensile eyes who gets most of the best lines and shares center stage with mom. Will Bobut dolls, pajamas, lunch pails and coloring books be the items that make children throw themselves on the floor screaming in toy stores across America come Christmas? Will Bobut come up with a catch phrase like "na-noo, na-noo"?

Tonight, Bobut, whose I.Q. is 25,000, meets his new nanny, whom he addresses as "stooge." But the "big trouble" starts when Bobut uses mind-control techniques on Doug's boss to get daddy a promotion.

No, no, baby Bobut. We don't do that here. You be nice now or mom might have to take you into the lab and do a little recombination work on your DNA.

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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