The ''28 Days" actor has a strategy to sidestep failure with his new series

By Liane Bonin
April 19, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

He’s baaaack. Mike O’Malley, whose ”The Mike O’Malley Show” distinguished itself as the first sitcom to get wiped off the NBC schedule after just two airings earlier this season, will soon be returning to the tube with yet another project. Last week CBS announced plans to shoot a new pilot, ”Yes, Dear,” about the trials of a conflicted thirtysomething (Anthony Clark) who is torn between the demands of his neurotic wife and his playful brother-in-law (O’Malley).

O’Malley already has something in common with Clark, whose own starring vehicle, ”Boston Common,” whimpered to a close after two low-rated seasons on NBC. But this time around, O’Malley says he’ll avoid the pitfalls that sank his previous series. ”After that show was canceled, I just thought about it a lot,” he tells EW Online. Here are some of the lessons he learned the hard way.

IT’S ALL IN THE NAME It’s great to have a self-titled sitcom if you’re Bill Cosby. It’s not so great when you’re a New Hampshire stand-up comic no one’s ever heard of. Not only did critics sharpen their claws over O’Malley’s perceived hubris, the show’s memorable title helped it become an easy target for nasty punchlines. ”If the show had been called ‘Three Guys and a Hamster,”’ says O’Malley, ”I’m not so sure if people would still be asking me ‘Hey, what happened?”’

TAKE IT EASY On his show, O’Malley functioned as leading man, executive producer, and writer. Not only did he overextend himself, the move was perceived as hopelessly naive for someone with so little television experience. He became even more of an industry laughingstock when an earnest 18-page manifesto about what the show should and should not include was leaked to the press. This time, he isn’t trying so hard. Playing a sidekick, he has less pressure but plenty of opportunity to play up the sharp comic timing he showed in ”28 Days.” ”I don’t think I would ever write and star in a show again,” he says. ”Those credits weren’t vanity credits, and I cared very much about the content going into the show, but ultimately that was another thing that hurt us.”

NO SOUR GRAPES Plenty of other stars have pointed fingers at network executives, advertisers and the public for their high-profile failures, but O’Malley won’t play that game. The savvy move may account for why he’s been able to bounce back with a new series so quickly. ”It would be easy for me to sit here and say it was the time slot, but shows get canceled all the time,” he shrugs. ”NBC was promoting the hell out of my show. I was ubiquitous on NBC all summer. I’m a big boy, and I knew what I was getting into when I got into TV. I feel like I just joined the legion of canceled TV shows that were created by even more capable talents than me.”

BUT IF HE GOES DOWN FOR THE COUNT… O’Malley won’t make the mistake of putting all his eggs in one basket again. If ”Yes, Dear” fails, he has plenty to fall back on. ”I just had a film come out, I’m working on a new play in New York, and I’m in the idea stage for a one-hour drama,” he says. ”The show was very short-lived, but now I’m doing all these new things and hopefully they’ll get going.”