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What can the success of ''Baby Bob'' mean?

What can the success of ”Baby Bob” mean? Why are audiences devouring a talking-baby show based on those commercials with computer-manipulated tykes? Caroline Kepnes has some answers

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Adam Arkin, Baby Bob
Baby Bob: Robert Voets/CBS

What can the success of ”Baby Bob” mean?

The odds of launching a midseason success are low. The verdict wasn’t good for the Supreme Court drama ”The Court,” which was canceled after just two sessions; ”American Embassy” was undiplomatically canned after two episodes (noticing a trend here?). Julia Louis Dreyfuss’ post-”Seinfeld” attempt, ”Watching Ellie,” is just hanging in there — not that that’s a bad thing. Fox’s ”Andy Richter Controls the Universe” and ”Greg the Bunny” are getting by, but c’mon, it’s FOX, for cryin’ out loud. Speaking of crying, there’s one rookie show that’s speaking loud and clear to the Nielsen households: CBS’ ”Baby Bob.”

The opening credits of this comedy masterwork claim that the show is ”based on commercials” — you know, the ones where computers manipulate baby faces so that they can pontificate and smirk. To our knowledge ”Baby Bob” is the first series based on an advertisement (the Taco Bell Chihuahua must be fuming), which is weird enough. But even weirder, the show has beat its lead-in, the critically praised ”King of Queens.” Why? Well, we certainly have asked ourselves that question… again and again. And here are the best answers we could come up with.

1. It’s not ”Yes, Dear” There you are, waiting for ”Everybody Loves Raymond.” It’s 8:30 and ”The King of Queens”’ end-credits are rolling. You gasp. If you don’t do something fast you’ll be watching ”Yes, Dear”! Oh, wait! It’s ”Baby Bob”; it couldn’t be as bad as ”Yes, Dear,” could it? No, it couldn’t.

2. Rebirth of Joely Fisher If you even began to blink, you missed Fisher in last season’s two-episodes-aired ”Danny,” which was even more of a misfire than John Goodman-as-gay-dad-stuntcom ”Normal, Ohio.” It could be that she’s Hollywood royalty (Shout out to Joely’s mom, Connie Stevens!) or it could be her nonsynthetic great big bosom, but there’s something about Ms. Fisher that gives her Téa Leoni status with TV execs. With the same prudence that ”In Style” covers her every bridal shower, wedding, baby shower, etc., casting directors try to make her a star. This time, they may have succeeded.

3. AARP Stunt Casting As a journalist disgusted with his son’s career in public relations, Elliott Gould is granddaddy dearest. The majestic Holland Taylor plays the antithesis of a doting grandmother. She scoffs at her stay-at-home daughter, doubts her maternal skills and, worst of all, implores her to be more like her Marcia Bradyesque sister. Of course, even Taylor couldn’t save Leoni’s unfunny show ”The Naked Truth” (cancelled by two — count ’em, two — networks). But Gould — who we love on ”Friends — has had pretty good luck with roles as sitcom dads.

4. The Shhhh Factor 2 People love secrets. It’s human nature. On ”Bob,” the parents don’t want anyone to know about their gifted kid for fear he’ll be labeled a freak. So, in an old school ”Three’s Company” sort of way, it’s kinda fun to watch the kooky mom and dad try to get Bob to bite his own tongue.

5. Technologically Trump Reality TV Fox’s ”Celebrity Boxing” attracted more viewers than NBC’s class act ”The West Wing.” Granted, ”West Wing” was a repeat. But you know that somewhere Aaron Sorkin is throwing darts at a photo of Danny Bonaduce. Whether it’s impossibly ruthless schemers on ”Survivor” or earth shatteringly idiotic singletons on ”The Bachelor” reality TV can go anywhere. It can make a Backstreet Boy eat bugs and horny spring breakers do three-way kisses on MTV specials. Still, here’s one thing reality TV can’t, and never will, accomplish: a lascivious infant who talks his way into sitting on his teenage babysitter’s lap. Hey, we didn’t say it was a good idea — just that reality TV can’t copy it.