TV Review : 'Tall Hopes' Is Short on Humor

"Tall Hopes" is the fourth comedy series getting a trial on CBS as the summer nears an end. The humor is shorter than the hopes.

The premiere arrives at 8:30 tonight on Channels 2 and 8, centering on the struggles of a likable squirt of a 14-year-old named Ernest Harris (Kenny Blank) to get as much family attention as his 16-year-old brother, Chester (Terrence Dashon Howard), a 6-5 high school basketball phenom.

George Harris (George Wallace) sees his older son, "Chet the Jet," as a coming college and NBA superstar and the family's future meal ticket. He doesn't see the Spike Lee-sized Ernest, who yearns to be a movie director, at all, unless it involves something of benefit to Chester.

Although Lainie Harris (Anna Maria Horsford) is the family's matriarchal disciplinarian who tries not to favor one son over the other, her husband's flicking dismissal of the bookish Ernest is so unattractive for a father that it's difficult to see his actions and their consequences as funny. Tonight he seeks to exploit Ernest by bribing him to do the oafish Chester's history assignment so that the older boy won't flunk and his basketball career can continue on schedule.

Lainie's intervention--she makes a speech about the value of education, even for jocks like Chester--and George's clumsy efforts to make amends are too little, too late. If this is to be the tenor of subsequent episodes, there won't be much to laugh about.

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