UPN specializing in crude sitcoms Previews: If Andrew (Dice) Clay is your cup of tea, you'll gulp down UPN's latest lemons.

August 25, 1997|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Just when you thought all the great lines of television dialogue had already been written, along comes Andrew (Dice) Clay in a new UPN sitcom to walk on stage and say, "Shut your pie hole, snapperhead."

In fact, those are the very first words we hear from Clay in "Hitz," one of three new sitcoms premiering this week as UPN starts its fall season ahead of everyone else. Clay's language and behavior go downhill from there.

Personally, if I had three sitcoms like "Hitz," "Good News" and "Head Over Heels," I would wait for the week of peak clutter starting Sept. 21 and try to hide them among the dozens of new series that will be debuting then. But this is UPN, the network that brought us "Homeboys in Outer Space" last fall. UPN specializes in crude, dumb and offensive language, behavior and stereotypes.

"Hitz" has all of the above. It stars Clay as the owner of small, independent record company. Also featured are Claude Brooks and Rick Gomez as two junior executives who recruit talent and produce records for the label.

In tonight's episode, Jimmy (Clay) gives the duo three days to find a major new star for the label or lose their jobs. To beat the pink slip, they try to recruit Coolio (played by Coolio).

Far worse than the language is the sexism that this show portrays as cool to its intended audience of adolescent boys.

For example, at a staff meeting to discuss previous firings, Jimmy asks if anyone is "smart enough" to know why he's firing people. When no one volunteers, he turns to a woman sitting on the couch and says: "Sheila, you're our lawyer. Stanford Law, right?"

"Top of my class," she says proudly.

"So, where's the coffee, Sheila?" Jimmy says to a booming laugh track, as Sheila hurries off to fetch.

And when she returns and holds out the cup to him, what does Jimmy do to even bigger laugh-track laughs? He butts his cigarette in the cup and walks away, leaving her holding the mess -- all wide-eyed and smiling at the camera.

Those familiar with Clay will recognize this action as perfectly in character with the Clay who celebrates physical abuse of women in his nightclub act.

In scheduling "Hitz" at 9 Tuesday nights, after "Moesha," the one decent teen show on the network, UPN president Lucie Salhany is feeding its biggest audience of kids right into the jaws of such misogyny, using Coolio and other music stars as bait.

The Diceman lives on UPN, and television is the poorer for it.

As for "Good News," there is nothing new or very good about it.

The sitcom features David Ramsey as the Rev. David Randolph, a young pastor under all kinds of fire as he takes over a new congregation.

It also features: a young woman in a very tight skirt who bends over a lot and waggles her behind at the camera; a heavyset older woman who hits people with her handbag and calls it

"whompin' 'em"; a choir that breaks into song every few minutes; and a hip-hop, jive-talking janitor.

These are images from the 1970s era of "Sanford & Son" that television probably should have left behind 20 years ago -- if not sooner. But, in the hands of executive producer Ed. Weinberger, who did some splendid work in the 1970s on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," they have found a prime-time home on UPN in 1997.

At the center of tonight's story is a gay man in the congregation who wants to bring his boyfriend to Sunday services. The young man enlists Randolph's help in convincing his mother to accept his gay lover.

The boy's mother has no problem with her son being gay. But, when she finds out his boyfriend is white, that's when she starts "whompin' " with the handbag.

Finally, from pie holes and handbag whompin', UPN takes us in "Head Over Heels" to a Miami dating service run by two brothers (Mitchell Whitfield and Peter Dobson). One brother is a "ladies' man"; the other is still hopelessly in love with his wife, who has run off with a pro football player. The latter brother is depicted as nerdy, which in sitcom-land spells loser.

As you might expect with a UPN sitcom about a dating service, "Head Over Heels" is just chock full of enlightened images of women.

There's the mother of the two brothers. She is defined primarily by her relationship with a silent, muscular, Hispanic, boy-toy trainer to whom she speaks suggestive, Spanish-sounding gibberish. The scene in which she jumps on her son's desk to re-create the ecstasy of having the trainer "work" her inner thighs might be a new low even for UPN.

Did I mention a character named Valentina tearing open her blouse to try to excite the nerdy brother?

Never mind. I've whomped 'em enough, I reckon. Time to shut the old pie hole.

TV preview

What: UPN series premieres

When: "Good News," 9 tonight; "Hitz," 9 p.m. tomorrow; "Head Over Heels," 9: 30 p.m. tomorrow

( Where: WNUV (Channel 54)

Pub Date: 8/25/97

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