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TV REVIEW : ‘Good Sports’ Falls Short

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

An ESPN-like network is the setting for a new CBS comedy series whose protagonists try to bicker their way into America’s hearts a la “Moonlighting” and “Cheers.” But “Good Sports,” premiering at 9:30 tonight on Channels 2 and 8, is neither good nor sporty.

The series is the first TV collaboration for long-time companions Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal, and it starts like this: When former supermodel Gayle Roberts (Fawcett) loses her co-anchor on “Sportscentral,” former pro football star-turned-pizza delivery boy Bobby Tannen (O’Neal) is hired as her new partner. And it’s sparks at first sight.

They clash off and on the air (including tonight during an interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and their war accelerates when Bobby moves into Gayle’s apartment house and can see through his window right into her place. She is furious, which means that somewhere down the line, depending on how long “Good Sports” lasts, they’re going to get romantic.

If “Good Sports” produced as much wit as witlessness, it would be a series to build an evening around. But it doesn’t. ESPN itself is funnier.

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First, the premiere is relentlessly banal and unfocused, and the second episode only somewhat better, with Bobby’s mother (Lois Smith) hiring an amusing “life helper” named Leash (Paul Feig) to look after her bumbling son.

Second, Bobby is such a confusingly written character that it’s hard to figure out what’s going on here. Gayle labels him a “self-destructive, irresponsible punk who never grew up.” That’s a charitable description. Actually, he appears to be brain dead.


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