• U.S.

Video: Deftly Dippy

2 minute read
Richard Corliss


ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. E.S.T.

Since its infancy, network television has favored two big noises: bang bang and ha ha. This month no fewer than five new dramas and comedies deal with the policeman’s lot. Only one of them intentionally offers the viewer anything to laugh at: Police Squad!, the best reason to stay home Thursday nights since Hill Street Blues moved there.

The triumph of Hill Street Blues has been to make the passive viewer pay attention—to the interwoven plots, the overlapping dialogue, the busy background of bodies and emotion. Police Squad!, a deftly dippy sitcom now midway through a six-week run, demands the same attention. Blink and you will miss the Tower of Pisa looming outside a window in “a neighborhood called Little Italy.” Glance at the evening paper and you will not see a young couple walk through a “Japanese garden” filled with blank-faced nisei standing in planters. Raid the fridge and you will miss the visit Sergeant-Lieut. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) pays to a shoeshine wizard who knows everything about the Underworld—and about life after death, open-heart surgery and the fate of the Dodgers’ pitching staff.

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, who launched the hit comedy movie Airplane!, are in charge here, and they bring the same sophisticated silliness to such TV cliches as slow-motion deaths and freeze-frame endings. Not the least of the new program’s blessings is that it has no laugh track. Appreciative viewers will surely supply their own.

—By Richard Corliss

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