Two New Series, Two Approaches to Love


The irony of Nancy McKeon’s acting career is that she got famous as a street kid on the NBC sitcom “Facts of Life” but fares better as an adult in dramatic roles rather than comedy.

Not that she has much to work with in “Can’t Hurry Love,” one of two CBS comedy series premiering tonight. “If Not for You” is the other one. It stars film actress Elizabeth McGovern and Hank Azaria in a half-hour as sweet and romantic as “Can’t Hurry Love” is sour and cynical.

The facts of “Can’t Hurry Love” are that it’s the kind of series you hurry to exit because it skimps on intelligent humor while loading up on ill-conceived raunch.



The protagonists are four pals in their late 20s, headed by Annie O’Donnell (McKeon), who works in a New York personnel agency, where we also meet her friends, Roger (Louis Mandylor) and Elliot (David Pressman in the pilot, Kevin Crowley thereafter). Elliot also lives across the hall from Annie with her best friend, Didi (Mariska Hargitay), one of those stock TV neighbors who routinely bursts in and offers advice about everything. On “Can’t Hurry Love,” the advice usually concerns Annie’s love life. What does she wear? How does she act? Yadda yadda yadda.

The subject of tonight’s episode is Annie’s infatuation with a police detective she meets on a subway. When he unexpectedly shows up at her place, she flees across the hall to break the news.

“I’ve got Cute Subway Boy!”


“In my apartment!”

“No way!”

Yes, they’re in their late 20s.

Although rarely witty, “Can’t Hurry Love” does get pretty obnoxious, as when turning a reference to mating pigeons, for example, into a crude joke about Bill Clinton. Ribald material is fine when it’s funny and not deployed at 8:30 when lots of little kids may be watching.

In this case, viewers are the pigeons.

“If Not for You,” on the other hand, is one of those series that you pull for even though it delivers modestly in its debut. That’s because its two central characters have a sophistication and gentle intelligence that make them attractive.

McGovern is audio book producer Jessie Kent, Azaria is record producer Craig Schaeffer. When their eyes lock across a crowded restaurant--a cliche that’s somehow inoffensive here--the connection is immediate. The snafu for them is that each is engaged to someone else.

The snafu for us is that the romantic sparks they talk about rarely transfer to the screen. They bump into each other again in a recording studio, where she’s making an audio tape of “Breeding Strategies,” and plan a secret rendezvous.


Set in Minneapolis, “If Not for You” has a sneaky sense of humor, deriving its initial comedy sting mostly from supporting characters: Jessie’s fastidious fiance (Peter Krause); a struggling singer (Reno Wilson) who turns details of Craig’s life into lyrics, and a woman (Debra Jo Rupp) who voices recorded messages and some of those other impersonal electronic blurbs that sound computerized.

What the series gets from McGovern is a dreamy, gauzy romantic quality that flows easily, and from Azaria (the voice of Moe, the bartender, and other characters on “The Simpsons”) a pleasing way with light material. Perhaps that will be enough to satisfy many viewers.

What you don’t get is electricity, or a sense that this series knows where it’s going as it seeks to retain the sizable audience it expects to inherit from its lead-in, “Murphy Brown.”

* “Can’t Hurry Love” premieres at 8:30 p.m. and “If Not for You” premieres at 9:30 tonight on CBS (Channel 2).