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Fall 2000: "The Michael Richards Show"

And now, a look inside the mind of the producers of The Michael Richards Show:

"It's been two years since Seinfeld, so the viewing public is no doubt starved for quality television entertainment. And since we don't have any to give them, we'll just stick Kramer in a suit."

With that out of the way, let's get to the petty sniping. The Michael Richards Show stars Michael Richards as Vic Nardozza, a great detective. Or that's what the show would have us believe, anyway. On the job, he's clearly a complete incompetent, who should be locked up someplace with soft walls and soothing music, but the characters keep saying things like "Vic, you're the best!" It's disconcerting.

That's what probably happens behind the scenes, too. Michael Richards has built a narrow reputation based on the amusing way he used to enter a television apartment, and now he's got people surrounding him, talking up his comic timing and before you know it, there he his falling over couches in prime time again.

Naturally, the writers of The Michael Richards Show weren't satisfied with putting the convulsive twitches of an alleged detective on television screens, so he has comic relief second bananas, too. They're there for when the viewer gets tired of the ponderous issues raised by a detective constantly in danger of strangling on his own tie.

Comic Relief Drone Number One is Tim Meadows, who you may remember from Saturday Night Live. You might also have seen the commercials for his recent movie "The Ladies Man." I'll just go ahead and assume you didn't actually watch the movie. Tim's character, Kevin Blakely, is a voyeur. Get it? He works for a private detective, and he's a voyeur! Isn't it deliciously spicy? It leads to wacky punchlines that mention -- get this -- sex! Wow! Edgy! In your face! Proactive!

Or, as it turns out, not so much. It's a sad thing when a sitcom can't wring laughs out of a premise like that. Or indeed, any premise at all.

The show also features a pair of guys (Brady and Jack) played by William Devane and Bill Cobbs whose main job is to be old and cranky. And then there's Amy Farrington, who's a woman. None of these allegedly comic relief put half the effort into their wackiness that Richards does. It's exhausting to watch him flinging himself at the ground over and over. Exhausting, but not, for some reason, amusing. I never thought I'd pine for the days of Chevy Chase and the brilliantly nuanced way he used to fall down.

In fact, for a show based around a funny-face goofball, the subplots are surprisingly somber. In the pilot, for example, Kevin thought Jack was dying, and then Jack had a stroke. And then heartwarming hilarity ensued when it turned out that Jack had just had his first ice cream headache.

The truth is, like so many other television shows, The Michael Richards Show isn't amazingly terrible. All of the wrong-headed thinking happened before the cameras started rolling. What's on the screen isn't really worth a hyperbolic discourse -- it'll be gone in a month and forgotten in a year. Big deal and good riddance.

I'm sorry. That was mean. The truth is, I hope this show lasts for years with really low ratings. Every three or four shows, the writers could come up with a new "comically" incoherent job for Richards. He's a spastic fireman! He's an epileptic mechanic! He's a congressman with an inner-ear disorder! He's a short-order cook with no control of his bowels! He's an orthopedic surgeon with the hiccups! And so on, until everyone in Hollywood has the whole thing out of their system.


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