New lawyer sitcom deserves life sentence

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

How can legions of talented and well-paid professionals churn out sitcoms as horrible as "A.U.S.A" (8:30 p.m., NBC)?

According to NBC, "A.U.S.A." was created by three-time Emmy Award-winner Richard Appel, a man who has worked on "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill." I don't care if he has won five Nobel Prizes and worked on a cure for cancer. "A.U.S.A" is the kind of sitcom that is killing sitcoms; the kind of television garbage that makes people embarrassed to watch television; the kind of unoriginal bilge that makes you doubt the future of creative, scripted comedy.

"A.U.S.A." tries to do for law what "Scrubs" does for medicine. Only it doesn't. The genial actor Scott Foley is wasted here as Adam Sullivan, an aspiring federal prosecutor. He may have graduated from law school, but he still doesn't know how to use a urinal. Yes, there's a urine joke within the first two minutes.

For what it's worth, Sullivan's professional rival turns out to be pretty public defender Susan Rackoff (Amanda Detmer). Naturally, he has had a long-unrequited crush on her since law school, where, we presume, she resisted him because of his bad toilet training. In this pilot episode, Adam causes a mistrial when he and Owen ask members of the jury for their phone numbers.

Adam's first case calls on him to prosecute an elderly veteran of the Tuskegee airmen. Later, some of the defendant's walker-bound buddies beat Adam up. If you find this charming, you'll love the joke that makes fun of Bob Dole's disabled hand. I have a feeling this might disappear faster than CBS's "Queens Supreme."

Williams is a perfect complement to this largely improvised sitcom.

Tonight's other highlights

Series notes

A flashback to Iwo Jima on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Joe Rogan is host of "Fear Factor" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Ovation, humiliation and elimination on "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox) ... Bridget dates her music tutor (Nick Carter) on "8 Simple Rules" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Willow changes for the worse on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Jim oversees Ruby's slumber party on "According to Jim" (7:30 p.m., ABC).

Nick helps a transvestite fight for custody of his slain partner's son on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS) ... Back in the dating pool on "Abby" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Kryptonite makes Clark do the darndest things on "Smallville" (8 p.m., WB) ... Will's new flame (Jenny McCarthy) treats Claude like a servant on "Less Than Perfect" (8:30 p.m., ABC).

Late night

Matthew McConaughey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden and The Roots appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Steve Irwin, Arsenio Hall and Floetry on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Patton Oswalt and Kenny Chesney are booked on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Beckwith are on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).