June 07, 1999 12:00 PM

FOX (Fridays, 9 p.m. ET; Saturdays, 11 p.m. ET)

It would be easy to dismiss this late-night comedy show, which just ended its fourth season, as the poor man’s Saturday Night Live. But basically MAD TV has everything SNL has—the virtues and the defects. Those traits will be on display twice weekly in rerun season, as FOX adds a prime-time airing starting June 4.

Like SNL, MAD TV earns the most laughs when mining the rich territory of pop-culture parody. Witness cast member Will Sasso’s well-done portrayals of Randy Newman (churning out disposable movie music) and Drew Carey (chuckling his way through some underwhelming improv in a spoof of Whose Line Is It Anyway?). Sad to say, the FOX alternative also resembles the NBC perennial in its policy of putting recurring characters through the same tired paces. I could barely sit through one sketch featuring Michael McDonald as a moronic child with the body of a tall adult.

If you’re a loyal customer of brand-name SNL, summer could be a good time to sample the competition. On the whole, it’s not a bad product.

Bottom Line: There’s some method in this madness

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