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Fall '01: "Bob Patterson"

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, you are officially on the clock.

In the sad realm of fall television reviews, watching a review of a show turn into an obituary is one of the saddest sights of all. So it is with this, TeeVee's one and only visit with the show known as Bob Patterson. To steal from Shakespeare, I come to bury Bob Patterson, and most definitely not to praise him.

If you haven't seen Bob Patterson, well, now you'll never get the chance. But let me tell you the tale, so that when you're musing around the water cooler about the abject failure of Seinfeld co-stars to make it on their own, you'll have some ammunition about Jason Alexander's foray into the world of ABC sitcoms.

Featuring the erstwhile George Costanza as the title character, Bob Patterson is -- sorry, was -- the story of a successful motivational speaker who actually struggles with terrible personality and self-esteem problems.

It's not a bad idea for a show, and Jason Alexander's an appropriate person to take a crack at the part. After all, Bob Patterson is only about five steps to the left of George Costanza: more successful, a little more likeable, but still essentially the same sad-sack guy.

At work, Bob's got to deal with the scene-chewing Robert Klein as Landau, his business partner and a character that's about three steps to the right of Rip Torn's Arthur on The Larry Sanders Show. And then there's his bizarre, wheelchair-bound assistant, Claudia (Chandra Wilson), and his dim-bulb intern Vic (Phil Buckman).

But before I bury Bob Patterson, I will damn him with faint praise. The fact is, the show was mildly funny. (Too bad the show's been cancelled -- given ABC's attempt to bolster Bob Patterson's ratings by rolling out Jerry Seinfeld to mock his former co-star in a series of promos, I would otherwise expect to see "Mildly funny!" in a Bob Patterson ad next week.)

The episode I caught made me laugh out loud a handful of times, thanks more to Claudia and Landau than Bob. And -- honesty time again -- I laughed several times at the comedy stylings of guest star John Tesh. Okay, it was more laughing at Tesh than with him, but it was still laughter.

Still, don't let this confuse you into thinking Bob Patterson was a good show. It was mildly funny, yes, but also remarkably shoddy in its construction. The dialogue seems slack, the way it was shot and edited felt somehow amateurish, and a lot of the acting was painfully stilted. It felt more like a college broadcasting seminar final project than a fully-realized network sitcom. But then, that's what a network sitcom star vehicle will get you: a show that otherwise wouldn't eve see the light of day.

So goodbye, Bob. We were hoping you'd be better, given how great Jason Alexander was on Seinfeld. But our wishing didn't help Michael Richards, and it didn't help you. Now all we're left with are sweet memories of George Costanza... and Jason Alexander's outrageously annoying KFC commercials.

Julia-Louis Dreyfus' new series is due in the spring. Let the countdown begin.


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