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TV REVIEW : Silliness Reigns Supreme in Jonathan Winters Series

If for no other reason in the world, we celebrate the newly arrived ABC series “Davis Rules” because it has captured Jonathan Winters and returned him from the wild. The show’s pilot episode ran Sunday after the Super Bowl and takes over its regular time slot tonight at 8:30.

It’s difficult to quantify Winters, since he has a mind like a monkey cage. In the premiere episode, Gunny Davis (Winters) makes breakfast for the grandkids of something with small cricket heads--but not the wings: “They kill the taste.” He reports that the school principal had trouble at the Food King: Wearing his terry-cloth bathrobe, he was caught cutting all the strings on the rump roasts and singing “Born Free.”

We can’t tell if his report is accurate, but, at any rate, the principal is gone and Gunny’s son Dwight (Randy Quaid) stumbles into the job. Dwight, who has to mind his dizzy dad and three sons, is most reluctant because he primarily adores classroom teaching.

Quaid is winning in his own rambunctious way and makes a spunky foil for Winter, and even reverses their roles with his own flights of silliness.

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In tonight’s episode, Dwight hires a tutor to help Robbie (Trevor Bullock) with his math, the particularly perky Ms. Yeargin (Patti Clarkson). All the boys fall instantly and entirely in love with her and Gunny puts on his old Marine dress uniform, but he begs off helping Robbie himself: “I know everything about algebra. . . . Fortunately I’m sworn to secrecy.”


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