Sitcom's dad has one-track mind

Preview: We can only hope that the sex-crazed single father in UPN's `One on One' grows to be a better parent.

September 03, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

A 33-year-old single father and the 14-year-old daughter he suddenly finds under his roof are arguing when the phone rings. The father picks up the phone, frantically motions for his daughter to leave the room, and starts talking into the receiver in a low and sexy voice.

"Yeah, I'm sorry we haven't had a chance to hook up," he says to the woman on the other end of the line. "But it's like I said: `When my daughter's in town, my pants aren't down.'"

But the daughter didn't leave the room. Unknown to him, she's standing behind her father.

"I'm behind your back, and all your pickup lines are wack," she says in response.

This is what constitutes a comedic moment in the new UPN sitcom, One on One, starring Flex Alexander (Homeboys in Outer Space) as Baltimore sportscaster Mark "Flex" Washington, and Kyla Pratt (Love and Basketball) as his daughter, Brenner.

Washington is described in UPN press materials as the "consummate player" who "wholeheartedly embraced the single life knowing there wasn't a woman around who wouldn't succumb to his charms." The premise of the series is that his daughter comes to live with him and cramps his lifestyle.

We get to see an example of his "charms" in tonight's pilot when Washington takes Breanna shopping, spies an attractive young saleswoman in lingerie and tells her: "I'd like to see something in a red bra and panties - you."

UPN calls it "charms," some might call it sexual harassment. But, again, that's the level of humor in One and One.

That scene opens, by the way, with Breanna holding a leopard-spotted thong and commenting how good she'd look in it. This is how television sexualizes kids and feeds the troubling social pattern of children having children.

It's worth noting that in the pilot sent to critics for preview, Breanna is 12 years old - not 14. UPN is changing the age of the character, according to a notice mailed with the cassette that says: "Please note that the character Breanna's age is 14. The reference to her being 12 in the enclosed tape will be corrected for the pilot's premiere on air."

I have a better idea: Why not desexualize the child and show some social responsibility as a broadcaster instead of just futzing with the kid's age?

I would like to find something nice to say about the series that joins UPN's block of Monday night African-American comedies this fall, if for no other reason than its Baltimore inflection. Though it's filmed in Los Angeles, there are references to local sports teams that Washington covers in his job as a TV sportscaster. The show's creator and executive producer is a former Evening Sun sportswriter, Eunetta T. Boone.

An episode scheduled to air Sept. 17 features a subplot in which Washington's best friend, Duane (Kelly Perine), tries to get Cal Ripken's autograph. The Bird, the Baltimore Orioles' mascot, and Ripken (played by Paul R. Ambrose) make cameo appearances.

But even this ends with Duane - a foolish character portrayed somewhere between vaudeville and minstrelsy - getting in a fight with The Bird, and punches being thrown. Again, there's the issue of responsible broadcasting in a show that airs at 8:30 p.m., a time when kids are sure to be watching. Punching team mascots is not funny, as shown by a lawsuit last year that involved an injury to the person in The Bird suit.

My major issue with the pilot centers on the writers going for laughs again and again by having Washington act like more of a child than his daughter. In an interview in July for a story that ran in The Sun, Boone told me that fatherhood will be treated responsibly in the series and that the character of Flex Washington will grow into being a good father to Breanna.

I hope that's the case. It isn't fair to write off most series after watching just two episodes. Here's a promise: We'll revisit One on One in The Sun in a couple of months, once all the new series have settled in, and see whether Flex Washington has grown.

New series

What One on One

When Tonight at 8:30

Where WUTB (Channel 24)

In a nutshell A new UPN sitcom that's too much about sex and a silly single dad.

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