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''Dave's World'': Show to watch

Harry Anderson stars in CBS’ latest sitcom based on the columns of humorist Dave Barry

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In what is probably the first sitcom based on the work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Dave’s World brings the columns of syndicated humorist Dave Barry to television. Barry is portrayed by Night Court‘s Harry Anderson as a hapless suburban husband and dad, heavy on the wryness and sarcasm. ”What’s most exciting to me about this is the potential to put on a show for families, for real families,” says Anderson. ”Not the families that we should have, not the families that we think we’d like to pretend we have, but the families that we really do have in this country.” Hmmm — sounds potentially kind of scary.

Nestled as it is between Evening Shade and Murphy Brown, Dave’s World (premiering Sept. 20) is expected to be one of the new season’s most successful rookies — in fact, CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky says he thinks Dave’s ”is going to make a big difference [for] Murphy Brown,” which, despite its Dan Quayle publicity, was down slightly in the ratings last season.

Though Anderson and the show’s producers are pushing the notion that this is the ongoing tale of an aging baby boomer, what ought to make the show distinctive is its potential to capture the tone of Barry’s prose — laid-back wackiness reveling in suburban anxiety and absurdity. Executive producer Fred Barron describes Barry as ”the voice of the ’90s” and feels the humorist’s work will translate well to TV because ”we’re all in our 40s, we’re in this situation…we’re all struggling.” Well, some of us are all those things, Fred; the rest of us might be busy identifying with Blossom.

As Dave’s wife, DeLane Matthews displays a lighter comic touch than she did in the leaden Laurie Hill last season. ”I’m hot for DeLane,” Anderson says with a laugh. ”We got along immediately; she is very, very bright and funny and vibrant.” Meshach Taylor — the long-suffering but no less vibrant Anthony Bouvier on Designing Women — costars as Shel, a plastic surgeon and one of Dave’s best buddies. In the most peculiar casting of the season, slick L.A. deejay-announcer Shadoe Stevens has been chosen as Dave’s earnest editor. Shadoe Stevens parsing Dave Barry’s split infinitives? Can’t picture it.

In any case, Anderson says his new show ”is about friendships and relationships and [the idea that] problems don’t have to be overwhelming.” Which makes Dave’s World sound like a nice place to live.

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