Most people who work in television would rather die than tell critics they actually care what we write about them.
Not Rick Reynolds, the star of the new CBS sitcom "Life . . . and Stuff," which debuts Friday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2.As a matter of fact, during a recent press conference with TV critics, Reynolds insisted he was "very hurt" by one rather negative ques-tion.
"I read my reviews. And I've cried over reviews and I have danced in jubilation in my kitchen. . . . I care very deeply," Reynolds said.
Not only that, but the comedian's ego is deeply intertwined with how well his new sitcom does.
"If this is canceled, and my whole career has worked toward this point . . .," Reynolds said, letting the thought hang. "Who am I kidding? Is it going to happen again? I'm not a great-looking guy and I'm 45 now. This is it.
"So, of course, I'll be devastated."
Well, Reynolds needs to be prepared to be hurt. And he needs to prepare to be devastated.
"Life . . . and Stuff" is just downright awful.
And, come on, critics aren't the only ones to think so. This show has been sitting on CBS's shelf for half a year. And the network is burning it off in June - a dead time for network television in general.
How bad is it? Well, the show starts out with Reynold's character, Rick Boswell, asking his wife, Ronnie (Paw Dawber), the following question:
"Which would you choose - never have sex again, ever, or have great sex - but with another woman," Rick asks. "And if you don't choose, your grandmother dies."
After Ronnie thinks for a moment, she replies, "Call me Martina."
Rick initially expresses some surprise, then shoots back, "Could I watch?"
Shortly thereafter, Rick starts whining and moaning to his wife about their flagging sex life. Ronnie insists that she wants to have sex just as much as Rick does, but he disagrees.
"If you did, we'd be on the floor doing the noodle dance right now," he says.
Then there's Rick's slacker brother, Andy, who lives in an old Winnebago.
"Casa del Andy happens to be a classic motor home," Andy insists.
"Casa del Andy happens to be an aluminum turd with wheels," Rick replies.
In other words, the show is tasteless, vulgar - and not even vaguely funny for the most part.
"Life . . . and Stuff" also expresses an exceedingly dark view of American life. It's straight out of Reynold's stand-up act - he co-wrote the pilot script - and its view of the family is remarkably negative.
"I thought that I would be madly in love with my wife after 14 years, and I am not," Reynolds told critics. "And it makes me extremely sad. And these are all the sorts of things I try to imbue in this show."
And, indeed, the show is replete with negativity, whining, moaning and complaining from a guy who's got a good job, a great wife and two young sons.
According to Dauber, that's pretty much the way Reynolds is in real life. "He obsesses," she said. "And that is what, hopefully, we'll find endearing and fun about it."
Gratingly annoying? Yes.
We should at least be grateful that the show isn't quite as negative as Reynolds is about his own life. He readily acknowledges problems in his own marriage - although his biggest gripe seems to be that it's not perfect.
"And I'll tell you why it's not perfect," Reynolds said. "Because kids have a lot to do with it. I mean, I love my kids more than anything. I would die for them. But they've ruined my life in many ways."
(Prediction: Reynolds' children will need therapy someday.)
Neither the man nor the character are exactly Pollyannas. When a new acquaintance asks the character how he's doing, Rick replies, "Well, I've got a huge mortgage, my boss is an idiot and I'm losing my hair. How 'bout you?"
And it's not just his own life that Reynolds is negative about. He's negative about everyone's life.
"Every time I start talking to somebody at a party, if I can talk to them long enough, I find out that they have this huge base of unhappiness," Reynolds said. "I'm not saying it usurps everything else, but I'm saying it's just there, whatever it is. . . . And they all smile and they all try to pretend it's not true.
"And maybe there are people in here that think I'm crazy and you're really these well-adjusted people - but you're like empty shells of people. Let me just say that it is the human condition."
Now, this is not to say that everyone in the world is deliriously hap-py. But if we all had the same attitude as Reynolds, the suicide rate would skyrocket.
Not that Reynolds' attitudes about life are necessarily any of our business. But that attitude is woven throughout "Life . . . and Stuff" - which sort of negates the entire concept of comedy.
Here's just what network television needs - a half-hour show that's billed as a sitcom yet leaves you feeling depressed.
WHO'S IT FOR? CBS has scheduled innuendo-laden "Life . . . and Stuff" on Fridays at 7:30 p.m., right after the family sitcom "Dave's World." This might lead parents to believe the two shows are compatible and that "Life" is appropriate for children.
Even Reynolds himself said the show's not intended for children.
"I created and wrote an adult show meant to go on at or 30," he said. "It's for adults, not for kids."