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Picks and Pans Review: Valerie

Posted on

NBC (Sat., Mar. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET)

C+

TV, just like a mother, keeps trying to marry off Valerie Harper. She got married on Rhoda. Then she got divorced—because she had to. Because Valerie Harper is meant to be single, sad, self-effacing and neurotic—and thus, wonderfully funny. She gives depression dignity. But TV, just like a mother, never gives up. So Valerie’s married off again in her new Monday-night sitcom (which premieres on a Saturday), this time to an airline pilot who’s hardly ever home; he comes on the show at the start only to say goodbye. Still, she has a handsome, happy family and a warm, happy home in a wholesome, happy suburb. Too bad. We rarely get to see the old Valerie, the Valerie who’d face unfair fate in the eye and stick out her acid tongue, the Valerie who’d fight for us all. We might have seen that Valerie here if only one of her three kids had turned out rotten. But no. Even Jason Bateman, the wiseass from Silver Spoons and It’s Your Move, is a wonder son here. The first two episodes of Valerie have Mom meddling in young Jason’s blossoming sex life. Mom doesn’t want her teenage son to date a dippy older woman (Lisa Sutton, Belker’s wife on Hill Street Blues). Jason can’t hack rebellion, so he obeys and dumps his girlfriend. Then Mom wants Jason to date the nice-but-not-a-knockout girl next door. Jason follows orders. So Bateman ends up playing a kid on Father Knows Best. And Valerie Harper ends up playing Robert Young. The problem isn’t that the show is miscast. Instead Valerie is miswritten and misdirected for its great cast. The show’s only salvation would be for that husband to run off with a flight attendant, making Valerie woeful and thus witty once more.