`Inside Schwartz' strikes out

Preview: NBC drops a loser into its Thursday night lineup.

Fall TV 2001

September 27, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

If ever there was a one-joke sitcom, it's Inside Schwartz, a new NBC series about a wannabe sportscaster who sees his entire life as a televised sporting event.

OK, maybe I should say it's a half-joke sitcom; it doesn't play any funnier on screen than it does in print. And it keeps playing over and over and over.

At this point, my only interest in this series is seeing how many viewers it drives away from NBC at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, during the half hour between Friends and Will & Grace. Remember Cursed, Stark Raving Mad, Jesse, Union Square and The Single Guy - some of the other dreadful sitcoms that NBC has tried to sandwich between its Thursday night hits in recent years? Add Inside Schwartz to the list.

Breckin Meyer stars as Adam Schwartz, a recent college graduate working in his father's restaurant business as vice president of operations - a job in which he has no interest. Most of Schwartz's time and energy is spent trying to get a job as a sportscaster and obsessing about his love life. Much of the obsessing is done with his platonic friend, Julie (Miriam Shor). His current compulsion involves being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, Eve (Maggie Lawson).

The show opens with Kevin Frazier and Van Earl Wright, real sports anchors from the Fox sports cable channel, reporting Schwartz's breakup as Schwartz watches in his living room. "Let's get right down to business, and we start with tonight's top story," Frazier says. "Ouch! Adam Schwartz done and dying. It's been four weeks since Schwartz was dumped by Eve Morris. The bone-crushing breakup has sidelined Schwartz with a severely broken heart. Let's go to the bedroom."

Then we get videotape of Schwartz and his former girlfriend lying in bed. He says, "I love you." She says, "I think we should see other people."

And back to the anchors, with Wright saying, "Family and friends have encouraged Adam to start dating, but Schwartz - who has never dated anyone but Eve - remains on the disabled list."

Schwartz does try to start dating again, and if you can't see where his first date is headed seconds after he and the woman meet, you're in a coma.

Sports fans might want to know there are guest appearances tonight by Dick Butkus, former linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and Bill Buckner, former first baseman of the Boston Red Sox. Such appearances are a staple of the show.

Butkus appears as Schwartz sits on his couch, talking to a woman. "Kiss her," Butkus tells Schwartz. "Put a body to her. She wants it. Listen, Schwartz, she's giving you an opening. Now make a move ..."

I say make a move, and change that channel.

Inside Schwartz airs at 8:30 tonight on WBAL (Channel 11).

Unseen `Agency'

Normally, we wouldn't write about a series premiere that isn't available for preview, but these are not normal times.

The Agency is a new CBS drama about life inside the CIA. Before Sept. 11, its most noteworthy aspect was how strongly the CIA endorsed it. Not only did the agency offer unprecedented access to the producers, it was scheduled to hold a screening party for the press at CIA headquarters two nights before the network premiere.

The event was canceled after the terrorist attacks, and the pilot was shelved. CBS says the episode that will air in its place tonight wasn't available for preview.

In the episode you won't see tonight, the CIA foils an attack by Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization to blow up Harrad's, the famous London department store. Bin Laden is constantly referenced, and the opening image set in Cairo is unsettling in light of recent events. It shows a CIA agent tied to a chair and gagged with an American flag. As an Egyptian policeman removes the gag, the room explodes. Bodies fly out of the building in which the booby-trapped American was imprisoned.

I didn't like CBS getting into bed with the CIA to make this drama, but I think the network made a wise call in pulling the pilot.

The Agency airs at 10 tonight on WJZ (Channel 13).

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