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Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)

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Ivan Sergei, Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)
Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central): Ron Tom

Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
03/27/02
performer:
Ivan Sergei, Ed Begley Jr., John Cleese, James Michael McCauley, Melinda McGraw, Sherri Shepherd
broadcaster:
ABC

We gave it a B

In an unusual occurrence, ”The Job,” that very funny Denis Leary cop sitcom, is being replaced with a promisingly funny, peculiarly titled show about a struggling TV network, Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central). What’s unusual about it is that they’re both created by writer-executive producer Peter Tolan, whose work as a scribe for the great ”Larry Sanders Show” no doubt paved the way for the wry cameo Shandling makes in an upcoming ”Wednesday” episode.

While ”Wednesday” exhibits a lot of ”Job”’s pungent irreverence, it lacks the same freshness. Set as it is at a fictitious network, IBS, ”Wednesday”’s atmosphere is not substantially different from that of any other TV TV-show, from ”Sports Night” to, well, ”Larry Sanders.”

Worse, its star is ”Jack & Jill”’s handsome, blank-faced Ivan Sergei. ”Jack & Jill”? I can’t believe someone from ”J&J” is our ostensible protagonist, David Weiss, a newly hired exec at a fifth-rate net that airs a show called ”When Animals Bite and Won’t Let Go” — i.e., junk not quite ludicrous enough (in this era of ”Celebrity Boxing”) to be witty.

Still, ”Wednesday” has a lot of Tolan in it, which is to say that people behave very badly very amusingly. The senior vice president of IBS programming, played with a smear of smarm by James McCauley, establishes the universality of this show’s workplace by advising callow Weiss that ”there’s only one thing you need to know about this business…. Everybody is lying.”

Ed Begley Jr., as the net’s president, is the sort of dim creep who sees everything as a career move, and asks Weiss if he’s Jewish. When Weiss replies in the affirmative, Begley shouts, ”Good choice!” Tolan’s subtlest creation is another VP, Lindsay, who insists Weiss deliver all his ”notes” about a show — TV-speak for suggestions and criticisms — to her rather than to the ”creative” side.

As played with canny deviousness by Melinda McGraw, Lindsay is smart at office politics but gives herself away when, while trying to parrot something Weiss said, mistakenly uses the word subtextural. ”Do you know what subtextual means?” asks Weiss, allowing the audience to feel superior to Lindsay whether or not it knows the meaning either. Sly boy, that Tolan — he kisses up to the viewer as cleverly as his characters do, but with added irony.

It’s fun to see John Cleese do some ”Fawlty Towers” blustering as the net’s Aussie owner, and guest star Lori Loughlin does some extremely generous joking about her ”Full House” fame, playing the star of an IBS sitcom, ”Just the Three of Us.” Still, my feeling persists: Give the ”Wednesday 9:30” time slot back to ”The Job” and let the other show change its name to, oh, ”Monday 8:00.”