Azaria sitcom latest NBC dud

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Bad doesn't begin to describe the new comedy "Imagine That" (7 p.m., NBC). Words like dull, depressing, tired and unoriginal don't quite do it justice, either. Is there a word in any language that conveys the sick and sad feeling a reviewer experiences when he sees yet another sitcom fail to become funny? Is "Sub-'Emeril'" a word?

"Imagine That" sheds a chilling light on a Hollywood writer's blind obsession with the success of "The Sopranos," and with HBO's stable of adult-themed comedies. In the opening episode, comedy writer Josh Miller (Hank Azaria) enters marriage counseling with his wife (Jayne Brook, "Chicago Hope") because he thinks they don't have enough sex. Are you laughing yet?

Once in the therapist's office, Miller daydreams that the counselor has become a stereotypical Italian thug (played by Azaria in a Walter Mitty-like fantasy), who drops lines like "bada-bing," and dispenses beer as therapy. "Bada-bing!" Get it?

And the "Sopranos" obsession doesn't stop there. The next day, at a meeting of fellow comedy writers, Miller's self-absorbed boss, Barb (Katey Sagal), rambles on about taking her ungrateful mother to an expensive retirement home. The anecdote adds nothing to the story, but it does manage to refer to the plot of the first season of "The Sopranos." What's next, jokes about baked ziti?

� Deaf parents agonize over their daughter's decision to undergo a cochlear implant and join the world of the hearing in the 2001 documentary "Sound and Fury" (8 p.m., PBS). Nominated for an Academy Award.

� Author and chef Anthony Bourdain hosts the new series "A Cook's Tour" (9:30 p.m., Food Network). Bourdain travels to exotic kitchens and food markets to sample delicacies from Tokyo to Mexico to Vietnam.

Tonight's other highlights

� Rory comes to her senses about Max's proposal on a repeat of "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

� Nick resumes his drug abuse on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS).

� Jack returns to the unit on the sixth hour of "24" (8 p.m., Fox).

� Sipowicz reluctantly shares an assignment with Clark's dad on "NYPD Blue" (8 p.m., ABC).

� Bon Jovi, Jewel, Slash, Lionel Richie, Kid Rock and Creed appear on "Pop-Up Video" (8 p.m., VH1).

� A surprise visit from Maxine's brother on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).

Series notes

Mac puts her ESP to work on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Jackie takes a job at a cheese shop on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox) ... Dharma's environmental stand aids Kitty's cause on "Dharma and Greg" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Buffy becomes invisible on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN).

Bess' peculiar boss (Garry Marshall) declares a "bring your dog to work day" on "Three Sisters" (7:30 p.m., NBC) ... Morning after angst on "Undeclared" (7:30 p.m., Fox) ... Romantic confusion on "Spin City" (7:30 p.m., ABC).

Daphne's mother and brother visit on "Frasier" (8 p.m., NBC).