New Fox sitcom gets off to controversial start

Fox could get a significant lift in the ratings if audience reaction to
some of its new shows turns out to be as cheerful as the critics’. After
lavishing praise on the new Fox drama 24, critics are now
extolling the sitcom The Bernie Mac Show, which premieres tonight
with back-to-back half-hour episodes.

The show “turns the
family sitcom on its head and then sets it spinning,” writes Tom Shales
in today’s Washington Post.

Matthew Gilbert in the Boston
Globe
calls it “a wonderfully sly family comedy with a few fresh
twists.”

Linda Stasi in the New York Post suggests that the show
is a relief from the family sitcoms in which child psychologists appear
to have worked over every scene. She concludes, “It’s not the funniest
show I’ve ever seen, but it could get there. And I besides, I laughed
out loud. That’s a good and a rare thing in these biblical times we’re
living through.”

But Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times
suggests that the show goes too far in testing the limits of family
sitcoms. “It sabotages itself,” he writes, “flirting with offensiveness
in a way that is likely to overshadow its good points.”

While some
writers compare Mac’s threats to the children he is caring for with the
threats that Ralph Kramden uttered on The Honeymooners (‘To the
moon, Alice!”), Genzlinger writes, “Some viewers will find his words
amusing, but others — those, for example, who work with abused children
— will be outraged.”

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