`New Beaver' treads old ground
The New Leave It to Beaver (WTBS/cable, Mondays, 6-6:30 p.m. ET; check local listings for Sunday repeats) is a throwback to the days when situation comedies depended upon facile solutions, instant self-realization, half-hearted motivation. Psychological authenticity was important only insofar as it fit into the contrived story line. This new family sitcom from Turner Broadcasting System will leave you yearning for validly conceived shows like ``The Bill Cosby Show,'' ``Family Ties,'' and ``Growing Pains.'' After a short stay on pay cable's Disney Channel last year under the title ``Still the Beaver,'' the resurrection of one of 1960's favorite family sitcoms, ``Leave It to Beaver,'' now finds another home on cable under yet another title. Beaver (still played by Jerry Mathers) is now divorced, and he and his two boys have moved in with his widowed Mom (still played by Barbara Billingsley). Wally (still played by Tony Dow) has married his childhood sweetheart, become an attorney, and bought a house next door to Mom, who has become a councilwoman at Mayfield's City Hall. Oh yes, smarmy Eddie Haskell (still played by Ken Osmond) hasn't changed, except for the fact that he now has a smarmy son.
I have previewed the first two episodes of ``The New Beaver,'' and I believe the series will please only nostalgia buffs. You may prefer to watch the originals (also airing everyday on WTBS at 5:35 p.m. ET) which have a certain psychological naivet'e. Beaver, however, is still allowed to play it cute. As a grown-up father, he is still so incompetent that, horror of horrors, he lets the hot dogs fall through the grill and thinks dorm food was delicious. When his son disobeys him, the script seems to believe that a slight reprimand is enough to change the boy's attitude. One wants to call in Bill Cosby to teach the youngster a real lesson.
The new series tries very hard to inject authenticity, but it does so with a heavy hand. There is almost no preparation or motivation in the script. It only serves to remind viewers how far family sitcoms have come. One simply cannot throw a veneer of topicality over an old sitcom and make people believe it's relevant.