By Terry Kelleher
October 16, 2000 12:00 PM

CBS (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Maybe Bette Midler learned something from her unconvincing portrayal of trash novelist Jacqueline Susann in the flop movie Isn’t She Great: If she’s going to play a celebrity, it might as well be herself.

For her first TV series, Midler has chosen the role of a happily married singer-actress called Bette who has a teenage daughter and a résumé that includes The Rose, “Wind Beneath My Wings” and the unfortunate Drowning Mona. Nobody actually says “Midler,” but that omission seems to be a joke in its own right. Self-mockery is clearly the name of her game. In the Oct. 11 premiere Bette still bemoans her Oscar loss to Sally Field 20 years ago and says resorting to regular work on the small screen would be grounds for suicide. The second episode starts with the star hamming in a guest appearance on JAG and develops into a hilarious satire on meaningless show-business awards and Bette’s less-than-flourishing film career.

There’s nothing subtle about the physical comedy in the pilot, as Bette visits a cosmetic surgeon and takes a stab at strenuous exercise. But “broad” is a term Midler has always been comfortable with. She receives able support from Kevin Dunn as Bette’s levelheaded husband, Roy; Joanna Gleason as Connie, her dryly humorous manager; and James Dreyfus as Oscar, the diva’s twittery accompanist. If the first two episodes are any indication, songs by Midler will be integrated smoothly and amusingly into the sitcom format.

Bottom Line: Good bet

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