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."