'Seinfeld' curse persists in 'Listen Up'

Monday, September 20, 2004

It's easy to turn a deaf ear to "Listen Up" (7:30 p.m., CBS), the brazenly unoriginal sitcom starring Jason Alexander as an opinionated sports columnist, TV commentator and all-around bumbling dad. Alexander's Tony Kleinman becomes the second sports columnist to join the CBS Monday-night stable. I find shows about columnists to be a bit hard to believe. And I'm a columnist! While Ray Barone's job at Newsday on "Everybody Loves Raymond" is merely background noise for his family squabbles, Kleinman's writing job and TV gig are the noisy center of this less-than-charming "comedy."

Tony spends his on-air time talking sports and bantering with his sidekick, former NFL player Bernie Widmer (Malcolm Jamal-Warner). But his real battles are over the breakfast table. It doesn't help that his wife, Dana (Wendy Makkena), cares little about sports and shares zero chemistry with Tony. Their daughter Megan (Daniella Monet) gets the sauciest lines of the pilot episode, but that doesn't make her believable or likable.

While watching this pilot, I began to wonder just how Alexander would incorporate his love of musical theater into his jock character. Frankly, I can't think of two more antithetical attributes. But, to my horror, Tony breaks into a musical number during one of his sports tirades, complete with dancers, costumes and confetti, singing about his all-American disdain for soccer. Nothing George ever did on "Seinfeld" was so cringe-inducing.

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