Imagine Slap Maxwell as a Hollywood screenwriter, circa 1939, and you get a fair notion of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby. He's been working in the business for 20 years--as he'll be the first to point out--and he "used to be a good man for structure," says a studio bigwig. But now he hardly works at all.
He survives on blather and luck instead of skill. He spends his energies thinking of ways to sneak on to the lot, or trying to come up with jokes for the Ritz Brothers at $5 per punchline, or leading gullible tourists on personalized tours of the stars' homes.
Writer and director Rob Thompson combined three of Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories into "Pat Hobby Teamed With Genius," the third and final installment of "Tales From the Hollywood Hills" (airing tonight on Channels 28 and 15 at 9 p.m. and on Channel 24 at 8 p.m.).
The seams between the stories show; this script could have used "a good man for structure." But the script's ambling, episodic quality is reflective of Hobby himself, and he's such an entertaining ne'er do well that most viewers will enjoy following him around for an hour.
He couldn't be better played than by Christopher Lloyd, the erstwhile Rev. Jim of "Taxi." Lloyd makes much of Hobby's know-it-all scoffing, as well as his wide-eyed mortification when it becomes clear that he doesn't know it all. This Hobby looks as if his limbs might fall off his body at any moment, but he's trying hard to keep himself intact.
The supporting performances are in fine form: Dennis Franz as a bookie, Colin Firth as a young British screenwriter, Joseph Campanella as a benevolent mogul who can't imagine why he's giving Hobby another break (neither can we) and Molly Hagen and Wendy Schaal as objects of Hobby's quest to prove that he's a ladies' man.