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Fall 2000: "Yes, Dear"

Back in the day, the couple who owned the company I used to work for had a child together. Immediately after the infant arrived, the father sent an e-mail to the top management, boasting, "Our child scored an eleven on the Apgar."

The Apgar tests, which are used to measure a baby's general well-being after it's born, only measure on a scale from one to ten.

But my former bosses were part of that annoying class of parents who believe raising a child, like all of their other hobbies, had to reflect their habit of over-achieving. These parents are the same bourgeois sheep who strap headphones to the mother's stomach so the fetus can develop a prenatal appreciation for Mozart, insist on feeding their children all-natural foods, and lord it over the folks who dare to use disposable diapers.

As if these irritating parents -- who, frankly, make AKC poodle owners look positively lackadasical in the breeding department -- weren't annoying enough in real life, they're now on television Monday nights. Yes, Dear features two of them, Greg and Kim Warner, played by Anthony Clarke and Jean Louisa Kelly.

Clarke is as inoffensive as strained pears, but Kelly is something else. Based on her ability to stop time for the viewer simply by opening her mouth and shrilling clichés, the federal government should swoop down on Studio City and spirit Kelly away to an underground lab for testing. A superpower like hers should only be unveiled in times of national emergency, not abused in the service of Monday night television.

The other two characters rounding out the ensemble -- Mike O'Malley and Liza Snyder as Jimmy and Christine Hughes-- are the yin to the other couple's überparenting yang. Where Greg and Kim are doing everything they can to turn their infant into a reflection of his overachieving yuppie progenitors, Jim and Christine are practicing the kind of parenting most invertebrates would applaud: spawn the little guys, then let them fend for themselves.

In a normal world, the yuptight and the slacker parents would never, ever meet. The Warners would hang out with other social darwinists and engage in subtle displays of dominance by mentioning their children's Apgar scores, and the Hughes would do what all good invertebrates do: anchor themselves to something and vegetate in front of the television. In sitcom-land, however, the Hughes and Warners are always interacting because Christine and Kim are sisters.

Presumably, the comedy comes from the clashes between the Hughes and Warner parenting philosophies. In the hands of a deft writing team, this might actually work -- the sisters could reflect on how their different personalities and common upbringing have shaped their own mothering styles and we could all have a good laugh at how capriciously shaped one's parenting philosophies are. Unfortunately, we're at the tender mercies of Alan Kirschenbaum and Greg Garcia, and the show stinks. It's not even fun to heckle -- that's how flat the writing is and how poorly the actors react to each other.

CBS will probably boast about the numbers Yes, Dear draws in its comfortable spot between King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond. They shouldn't. As my bosses found out, we know the numbers on the scale, and we know when you're lying about the true potential of this new creature you've brought into the world.


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