Anyone still wondering why Connie Sellecca ran away fro ABC's "Baby Talk" last fall will get an answer tonight when the series debuts with Julia Duffy taking Sellecca's place.
The first episode, which airs at 8:30 on WJZ (Channel 13), is a mess.
The sitcom, based on the 1989 feature film "Look Who's Talking," was on ABC's fall schedule this year. But Sellecca bolted shortly after filming began, and the show was postponed.
The premise is that Maggie Campbell (Duffy) is a single mom with an 8-month-old baby who talks. The gimmick is that only other babies and the audience can hear Mickey talk. What's supposed to make it even funnier is that Mickey's voice is provided by Tony Danza of "Who's The Boss?"
The mess begins with Maggie, who is supposed to draw our sympathy in tonight's episode, having been put down by the guy Ted McGinley) she was involved with. The implication is that she became vulnerable mostly because she was looking for a father for Mickey.
The problem is Duffy is still playing Stephanie from "Newhart" -- self-absorbed, snotty, elitist, condescending. It's hard to feel sorry for her.
The fault is part Duffy's and part the script's. But it's all Duffy's fault that she has zero rapport or even interest in Mickey (played by Ryan and Paul Jessup). The lack of a believeable mother-son bond could be a fatal flaw. Bob Saget, of "Full House," is not a great actor, but he does connect somehow with the children who play his character's daughters. And that's one reason "Full House" is such a hit with young viewers.
The "Full House" comparsion is an important one, because ABC is going for exactly the same audience, hoping to ride the show's long coattails when it takes up its regular spot at 9:30 Fridays starting next week.
The idea is that the audience from "Full House," "Family Matters" and "Perfect Strangers" will stay tuned for "Baby Talk." The first three shows are such ratings hits that it might work.
The thing ABC seems to have forgotten about young viewers, though, is that while they may not be real sophisticated in their taste for humor, they are usually very good at spotting insincerity. And "Baby Talk" is steeped in that department.