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‘Danny’ Centers Around Family Life

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

“Danny” arrives on CBS tonight amid some negative critical buzz, but it’s a warm, gentle, amiable little comedy, one calibrated to smiles instead of punch lines followed by noisy laugh tracks.

No huge moments in the two episodes sent out for review, but many nice ones, with Daniel Stern as a likable single father of two teenagers and hands-on director of a multipurpose facility known as the Wreck Center that he transformed from some deserted warehouses. With his poor organizational skills, it’s hard to see how.

It’s at this community center where Danny comes alive, though, his deficiencies as an administrator eclipsed by his kindness and devotion to kids.

The premiere is at its best when he’s guiding little girls in their tutus while filling in for the dance teacher and pushing his 40-year-old bones in a basketball game with teenagers. When teased about not being able to jump, Danny replies: “That’s not because I’m old, it’s because I’m Jewish.”

Meanwhile, that dance teacher has him in her hip pocket, his secretary under her thumb.

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On the home front, he shares time with his son (Jon Foster), daughter (Julia McIlvaine) and father (Robert Prosky)--a very nice supporting cast, by the way--and as a parent, his best-laid plans inevitably crash.

If there is a banana peel in the neighborhood, the man/child Danny will slip on it, his constant bumbling and personality pratfalls growing weary at times. You’d hope that the producers would cut back on his klutzy Dagwood Bumstead moments in favor of the common denominators of parenting. As when his advice to his son about drinking backfires in the wittier second episode, and he and his daughter squirm uncomfortably when graphic sex surfaces during the foreign movie they are watching together at home.

The question, when it comes to survival, is whether “Danny” can find ways to touch the funny bone as often as it does the heart.

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“Danny” premieres tonight at 8:30 on CBS. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).


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