UPN, which doesn't get a lot of respect or a whole lot of viewers, tries to stir up some interest by jumping the gun on the "fall" season this week.
But the three new sitcoms the pseudo-network is rolling off the line pretty much prove that UPN isn't deserving of either respect of a whole lot of viewers.Tonight's offering, "Good News," is good only in comparison to the two pieces of sludge coming on Tuesday - "Hitz" and "Head Over Heels." And then there's the fact that UPN has rated those two smutty and vulgar sitcoms TV-PG. (More on that later.)
Here's the bad news:
GOOD NEWS (tonight at 8 on Ch. 14) bears a decided resemblence to the 1986-87 sitcom "Amen" - and that's no coincidence. Like that show about a young African-American minister and his flock, this one is also executive produced, written and directed by Ed. Weinberger.
David Ramsey stars as David Randolph, the new acting pastor at the Church of Life. His first day doesn't turn out so well - most of the staff quits to begin a rival church down the street. David is understandably upset.
"Is that all this job is about - petty jealousies, popularity contests and money?" David asks.
"Well, of course. You're a minister," replies Vera (Rose Jackson Moye), the church secretary.
Vera is immediately smitten with David and all but drools over him. Soon a second woman is after the pastor - gorgeous Mona (Alexia Robinson) signs on as the new youth director.
Trouble crops up when a par-ish-oner, Eldridge Dixon (Dwaine Perry) asks David for help - he hasn't told his mother he's gay. And that he wants to bring his new boyfriend to church with him. And his mother turns out to be the formidable church cook, Mrs. Dixon (Roz Ryan).
At first, all goes rather well. Mrs. Dixon is less than surprised.
"Dat's it? Dat's what you drug me down her fo'?" she says.
But when she learns that her son's boyfriend is white, she blows a gasket. "Whatsa matter with you, boy? There aren't enough nice black men out there? . . . You done gone crazy!" she bellows as she swats both her son and the pastor with her purse.
Hers is just one of many stero-typ-i-cal characters in "Good News," where dinner consists of smothered chicken and collard greens; where the new janitor runs around saying things like "I can be your hip-hop deacon, revvy Rev. Watcha say? Watcha say, revvy Rev?"; where the women are either man hungry or shrews.
"Good News" is not without some redeeming qualities. Newcomer Ramsey is talented and charismatic. And there's some really great gospel music.
But this is not exactly appointment television. This is the sort of show you'll watch only if your remote is broken and you're too lazy to get up off the couch and change the channel.
HITZ (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Ch. 14) is a show with the ever-grotesque Andrew Dice Clay and without any redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Actually, the one good thing about "Hitz" is that Clay is not the star. He's a supporting player - Jimmy, the slimy, disgusting head of a Los Angeles record company.
The leads are the remarkably mildly talented Claude Brooks and Rick Gomez, who play knuckleheads Busby and Robert. Their jobs are hanging by a thread - it's either sign a big act or else.
And these two are not exactly enlightened, either. In an exchange with guest star Coolio, Busby says, "Your mama is so nasty, I had phone sex with her and got an infection."
But that's mild compared to the behavior of Jimmy - which is, of course, a toned-down version of Clay's onstage persona.
The first words out of his mouth in the episode are, "Shut your pie-hole, snapper head."
He tells a female employee, "I respect you as much as I respect any man - especially on hot days when you wear those tight, cotton, clingy numbers."
There are plenty of jokes about anatomy and sexual performance, not to mention the ones about drug and alcohol abuse. At one point, Jimmy comes out of his office with two scantily clad women, one of whom is still getting dressed.
"By the way, girls, that thing about a record deal? Never gonna happen," he says.
The studio audience, which hoots and hollers at the most vile and sexist "jokes," thinks all of this is hysterical. But it's not.
"Hitz" is not vulgarly funny. It's simply vulgar and boring.
HEAD OVER HEELS (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 14) doesn't have Andrew Dice Clay. But it is loaded with remarkably graphic jokes about orgasms, masturbation and sexual performance - many of which are far too tasteless to reprint here.
Peter Dobson and Mitchell Whitfield star as Jack and Warren, brothers who run a dating service. Jack is a unrepentent womanizer - his goal in life is to sleep with a million women. Warren is a nebish looking for true love.
The supporting cast includes Ian (Patrick Bristow of "Ellen"), the "love engineer" who's celibate - but which gender he's foresaking is a mystery. And then there's Valentina, the gorgeous-but-bright office manager who offers to open the mail topless for $1,000 a week.
The only debate here is over whether "Head Over Heels" is worse than "Hitz." And it's a moot point - they're both toxic.
UPN SHOULD BE ASHAMED: The network wannabe will prove just how pointless the current content-ratings system can be on Tuesday night - it has assigned TV-PG ratings to both "Hitz" and "Head Over Heels."
And TV-PG means that, with parental guidance, these shows are appropriate for 7-year-olds.
The fact is that they're not really appropriate for anyone, but certainly not for children under the age of 14. At the very least, bot "Hitz" and "Head Over Heels" should have been rated TV-14 - and even that's pushing it.
Another clear piece of evidence of how badly out of touch with most of America the network television business is.