`Home Movies' run amok

Television: UPN's new cartoon series is a mix of crude animation and some crude humor, but it's pretty funny.

April 26, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

The concept of Paula Poundstone as a TV mom is quite enough to stop me in my tracks. Now try to get your mind around this: Paula Poundstone as a TV mom done up in the wobbly, minimalist animation known as Squiggle-Vision to fans of "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist."

Where have you gone, Donna Reed?

You might also wonder where the prime-time TV family is going these days when you see "Home Movies," which premieres tonight at 8: 30 on UPN. In addition to the SquiggleVision version of Poundstone as a single mom named Paula Small who never gets out of her baseball cap and sweats even for dates, there's Brendon, her highly strung son, and baby Josie, a gurgling pre-tot in big glasses and a perennially wet diaper.

The action tonight centers around Brendon's soccer coach, McGuirk, dating Paula after her recent divorce. It's her first date since the divorce.

McGuirk is as big and dumb as they come, and Brendon hates him. He does everything he can to sabotage the relationship. This includes flipping out at soccer practice and screaming, "He's coming after your mom. He's coming after your mom. I know -- it happened to me. Save your mom."

Undersized and asthmatic, Brendon is one of the world's worst soccer players. But his passion is for film, and, in this regard, he is precocious. Tonight, the young auteur is working in the cop-drama genre, and the script for his film within the show is filled with talk of "dirty cops gone bad" and other such cliches familiar to viewers of series like "NYPD Blue." The parody is wicked, raw and funny.

The series is all that, too. Forget the primitive, wiggly line drawings. Like "Dr. Katz," what matters in "Home Movies" are the sensibilities, attitudes and edge of the characters as expressed through their words. The creators and executive producers of "Home Movies" -- Tom Snyder, Loren Bouchard and Bonnie Burns -- are the same folks who bring us "Dr. Katz" on Comedy Central.

Here's Paula on the phone with her friend, Bonny, talking about her coming date with Coach McGuirk:

"You know what, I like to go into this date with almost a chip on my shoulder. How dare he ask me out! How dare anybody put me through this!

"What am I wearing? I'm wearing, well, this is my feeling. Right now, I'm at the precipice of my life. I'm at a turning point. I've decided I'm going to go just dressed how I am dressed, 'cuz otherwise it's almost false advertising. I'm wearing big, baggy pants and a shirt that makes a man want to buy me another shirt."

Do I have to tell you how the date goes?

"Home Movies" is nothing if not uneven, which means you have to balance the wickedly funny against the numbingly dumb, like the neighborhood kid named Jason who blows snots in and out of his nose to the horror and amusement of Brendon and his friends.

But this is the brave, new world of prime-time television made on the cheap. I can endure squiggly line characters and even a modicum of snot, I guess, as long as Paula and Brendon keep their edge.

Debut

What: "Home Movies"

When: 8: 30 to 9 tonight

Where: WUTB, Channel 24 (UPN)

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