`Movie Stars' needs a bit more shine

Review: A new sitcom's self-parody is a little dull, but it's got potential.

July 10, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Harry Hamlin as dad in a family sitcom is not a concept that makes me leap to my feet screaming, "Yes!"

But that's the deal in "Movie Stars," a new sitcom that premieres tomorrow night on the WB, and Hamlin is not half bad in hitting the tricky notes of satire and self-parody that his role demands.

"Movie Stars" aims to be one of those postmodern family sitcoms that mocks the genre as much as celebrates it. Think "Married With Children," only here your parents are glamorous. Or, as the song says, "You're daddy's rich and your mama's good-looking."

The mama is played by Jennifer Grant, the daughter of Dyan Cannon and Cary Grant who formerly appeared on "Beverly Hills, 90210." She and Hamlin play Jacey Wyatt and Reese Hardin, two Hollywood actors living the good life in Malibu with multi-million-dollar movie deals, two kids of their own and a third on the way.

The one on the way is Reese's teen daughter from a previous marriage, who shows up halfway through the pilot, asking to move in. The arrival of 16-year-old Lori Hardin (Marnette Patterson) makes for most of the trouble during the episode -- ranging from a stolen limousine to a couple of beach boys in the family's hot tub.

Jacey gets Academy-Award nominations for her work, while Reese makes more money than Mel Gibson starring in brain-dead action-adventure flicks. Most of the humor comes from mocking show biz, Hollywood and celebrity.

"How was your day?" Wyatt asks her husband as he arrives home from the studio.

"I killed a big bug with a big gun," he says, describing the scene he filmed that day. "Life is good."

When Wyatt scolds Lori for the boys in the hot tub and warns her about bringing strangers into her home, the girl says: "Jacey, this is Malibu. The most dangerous thing you've got out here in Robert Downey Jr. looking for a place to crash."

And then there are the brothers of the stars. Reese's brother Todd (Mark Benninghofen), an underemployed actor, works as Reese's assistant and resents every minute of it. His only respite is hanging out and playing cards with the brothers of Patrick Swayze, John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone -- played by the real-life brothers, Don Swayze, Joey Travolta and Frank Stallone.

Tone is everything in a satire like this. It is not struck perfectly in the first two episodes. But it is close enough to warrant further listening this summer.

New series

What: "Movie Stars"

When: Tomorrow, 9 p.m.-9: 30 p.m.

Where: WB (WNUV, Channel 54)

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