CABLE TV REVIEW : 'Not Necessarily Year in Review' Is Not Necessarily Very Funny

Upon its fifth anniversary, HBO's comedy series "Not Necessarily the News" has come up with another hourlong special edition. This one, "Not Necessarily the Year in Review," like the series itself in recent times, is not necessarily funny.

"Review," which debuted Wednesday night on the cable channel and airs again Saturday at 10 p.m. with other playdates through Jan. 31, seems like it couldn't miss. Remember, now, 1987 was the year that sported, among other subjects ripe for spoofing, the three Bs--Biden, Bork and the Bakkers. Somehow, though, the show does miss--again and again and again.

Hosted by the "Not Necessarily" team--Anne Bloom, Danny Breen, Stuart Pankin and Lucky Webb--and including the usual combination of actual news footage and faked shots, the program delivers dumb jokes, old jokes (mixing up "Star Wars" the movie and "Star Wars" the arms plan), silly jokes, all-too-easy jokes (following a reference to Donna Rice's ads for No Excuses jeans with a phony one of Gary Hart hawking a "No Morals" brand) and non-jokes.

Especially non-jokes. The deadly material might have been overcome at least once in a while if there were one good comedian among the show's cast.

It's easier to be tasteless than funny--especially on cable--and there's bad taste galore here: Worst of all, perhaps, is a sketch about a Bob Woodward-like reporter who visits William Casey in his hospital room.

Speaking of hospitals, the special's writers seem to have been absolutely obsessed with them. Not only do they invent a long, incredibly boring sketch on how hospitals charge too much and care too little (what a concept!) but the only reference to 1987 in this premise is that it was the year "when a lot of people joined hospital plans." No, this wasn't followed by a complete disregard for the premise and a bit about Nixon and Kissinger. But it might have helped.

"Real" newscaster Edwin Newman, "Cheers' " George Wendt and clay figure Mr. Bill appear briefly too, to little avail. If there are hospital plans for comedy shows, "Not Necessarily" had better have its policy paid up.

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