Oddball 'Viva Variety' tacky, tacky, tacky, but fun

Today's TV

December 09, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach At a glance

Cheeky, cheesy, and more than a little Chintzy that's "Viva Variety" (10 p.m.-10: 30 p.m.), a spoof of European variety shows that launches its second season tonight on Comedy Central.

Sort of a nightmare hybrid of Ed Sullivan and Arsenio Hall, "Viva Variety" is lorded over by the determinedly shallow Mr. Laupin and the ex-Mrs. Laupin (Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney), with an incapable assist from sidekick Johnny Blue Jeans (Michael Ian Black), who sings love songs to Ms. Pac Man and dreams of being celebrity-roasted by Nipsey Russell and Adam West.

It's all quite odd, perfectly tasteless -- tonight's guests include a guy who balances 225 pints of beer on his head and a pair of "musicians" who play steel drums with their well, not their hands or even their feet -- and, in short doses, very funny. Particularly inspired: a contest that asks audience members to guess whether a dress was designed by a fashion designer or to be worn by Klingons on "Star Trek."

One question, though: Is this really what European variety shows are like? "The Italian Americans" (8 p.m.-9: 30 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) -- Archival footage and family photos illustrate the Italian-American experience in this PBS pledge-time special. Among those taking part are actors Joe Mantegna, Stanley Tucci and Kaye Ballard; writer Gay Talese; comedian Pat Cooper; chef Mary Ann Esposito; baseball's Tommy Lasorda; and former public official Geraldine Ferraro. PBS.

"Son-In-Law" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- In this 1993 comedy that seems to keep surfacing around the holidays, Pauly Shore plays the somewhat wild new boyfriend whom a college freshman (Carla Gugino) brings home to meet her conventional family. Fox.

"NYPD Blue" (9: 30 p.m.-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- In an unusual scheduling quirk, the show starts early and gets an extra half-hour to conclude a two-part story about a child's murder that began on Nov. 25. (Ninety-minute dramas and even movies used to be scheduled regularly, but that was long ago.) Tonight, Russell forms a bond with a grieving mother who may be able to help the squad find her son's killer. ABC.

"48 Hours" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- After surviving opposite "ER" since January 1995, this Dan Rather newsmagazine moves to a new slot where "NYPD Blue" and "Dateline NBC" rule. Tonight, Dan & Company check in on survivors of big-time catastrophes. CBS

Cable

"Entertainers '97" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., E!) -- Which stars have made the biggest impact this year, commercially and critically? After tonight's look back at 1997, one of them will be named Entertainer of the Year. Hosts: Todd Newton and Jules Asner.

James Bond movies (8: 05 p.m.-1: 50 a.m., TBS) -- The cable channel's annual "13 Days of 007" kicks off with a double bill of Roger Moore adventures: 1983's "Octopussy" and 1979's "Moonraker" (11: 05 p.m.). Bernard Lee gives his final marching orders as "M" in the latter.

"Danny Kaye" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., repeats midnight-1 a.m. and 5 a.m.-6 a.m. tomorrow, AMC) -- Film clips and interviews round out this biography of the versatile actor. AMC also screens "A Song Is Born" (5 p.m.-7 p.m.), "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (7 p.m.-9 p.m., repeats 1 a.m.-3 a.m.) and "The Five Pennies" (10 p.m.-midnight, repeats 3 a.m.-5 a.m.).

"America Undercover" (10 p.m.-11: 15 p.m., HBO) -- "Drag Time" asks, why do female impersonators and "gender illusionists" enjoy what they do? HBO thinks we want to know.

Pub Date: 12/09/97

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