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'Emergency' Not Worth Saving

In Case of Emergency, break the glass on your TV tube and go read a book.

ABC's new sitcom of that name, which debuted Wednesday night, was so bad as to be unintentionally funny. Almost all of its intentionally funny bits were simply painful, however.

The premise seems to be that there is an appetite to laugh at people at the lowest point in their lives, people eating like pigs, acting like pigs, wanting to kill themselves, losing their pensions. Oh, joy.

I like black comedy as much as the next guy. I have seen Harold and Maude several times, and The Ruling Class several more. This is neither of those, in spades. In both of those movies you cared about the ill-fated characters, while in this show nobody seems worth the emotional investment, from the divorced guy who leaves his kid at home to have sex in a Korean massage parlor to the formerly fat guy who stuffs himself with anything at hand after getting dumped by his girlfriend.

There was one nice bit of sight gaggery, however. It is when one of our forgetable foursome (the losers are all members of the same high school class of 1987) reaches for a desert on the tray of his hospital bed (he has shot himself in the foot after not deciding to shoot himself in the head) and, rather than get up, tries to swipe at it from a sitting position, only to throw himself off the bed in the process. It is one of those "too lazy to do it right moments" that I could identify with, like when you try to carry everything from the car in one trip and wind up dropping the grocery bag with the jar ofr pickles onto the driveway.

But then there was the other hospital food-related swipe, where the former fat guy, played by Ally McBeal's Greg Germann, steals a desert from the tray of a patient after he hears the flatline beep of the monitor. That one flatlined itself.

By contrast, what I saw of ABC's other sitcom debut, Knights of Prosperity, looked promising. It had an endearing Lavender Hill Mob goofiness that seemed like it could develop into something.

It also reminded me of Who's Minding the Mint, a TV movie from the 1970's with Jim Hutton and Victor Buono, with a little In-Laws (the original with Peter Falk) thrown in.

I only saw snatches of the Knights during breaks in the Notre Dame/LSU game (21/14 as I write this), but once the bowl mania has run its course, I could invest a few half hours in the goofy crew of would-be master criminals.

By John Eggerton