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'Mark and Brian' an adventure in tedium


Maybe you can blame this one on the Los Angeles freeways. Some network programmer was probably stuck in traffic one smoggy day in Tinsel Town, listening to the No. 1 morning drive-time disc jockey team go through their predictable antics, when the idea struck him, "Hey, we should try this on TV."

So, perhaps, was born "The Adventures of Mark and Brian." Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps are one of those exceedingly popular morning radio teams who perform their act for KLOS-FM in Los Angeles.

For NBC, starting tonight at 8:30 on Channel 2 (WMAR), they will be the ultimate examples of what used to be known in the TV news biz as "reporter involvement." You know, that means if your reporter is doing a story about women buying guns, she should pick up a .345 magnum herself and blast away at a target while the cameras roll.

In this case, Mark and Brian will get to fulfill carefully constructed fantasies, wise-cracking and mugging for the camera along the way. It's supposed to look rough and real and unrehearsed, but the opening episode seems about as canned as the laughter on most sitcoms.

Maybe there are, as the publicity for the show states, no second takes, it really is all taped as it happens, but it's clear that everyone involved has been prepped about what to expect. And, gee, if someone happens to get off a funny line, you should know that they do list a couple of writers in the credits.

In tonight's preview, Mark and Brian decide they should sing and dance with the Temptations. You think the fact that the show's producer, Don Mischer, is best known for his work with Motown TV specials had anything to do with that thought? Or is that just a wild coincidence?

The dynamic duo is seen negotiating, practicing and rehearsing its way onto stage with the Motown group. However, as these DTC two ooh and ahh about meeting such musical legends, no one mentions that there's only one original member of the group still singing, or that having a pair of popular local DJs up on stage making fools of themselves might help sell a few tickets for the Temps' L.A. gig.

The show gets another plug on Thursday night at 8:30 following "The Cosby Show" with an episode in which our heroes are stand-in coaches for the birth of a baby, helping a woman whose husband is at Air Force basic training. This is more than Lamaze class we're talking about, there's also planning the shower and figuring out a name.

Then, "The Adventures of Mark and Brian" settles into its killer Sunday night at 7 o'clock time slot next week with back-to-back repeats of these two episodes. This is clearly meant as an alternative to "60 Minutes" for those who like to spend their Sunday evenings avoiding anything remotely resembling thinking.

In future episodes, Mark and Brian will do things like bungee jumping, swimming with sharks, swinging on a circus trapeze and taking firefighter training. Along the way, they will make their funny jokes and give you a plateful of what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into? looks.

There are several reasons that "The Adventures of Mark and Brian" is on the air. First, it's cheap. And for some reason, network programmers have decided that there's ratings gold in these morning disc jockeys.

So far, they have struck nothing but out as Rick Dees, another L.A. phenom, quickly disappeared into the night on ABC and Jonathan Brandmeier, a Chicago platter spinner, had a brief flirtation with NBC and then a syndicated talk show -- "On the Loose with Johnny B" -- that was canceled before they could get the staff T-shirts back from the silk screener.

The network types thought they could turn local-mania for off-the-wall DJs into national popularity. They just don't understand that the type of lame humor that appeals to still-waking-up gray matter is not the type of humor people want to see on television at night.

This show looks like something you'd find on a Fox throwaway night. And if NBC has a throwaway time period, it's the one opposite "60 Minutes."

At least in Baltimore we can be thankful for small favors. What if that network executive had been stuck in traffic in the back of a TV-equipped limo here? He might have seen Don Scott and Marty Bass! Don't even think about it. It's too scary to contemplate.

"The Adventures of Mark and Brian" * A new series featuring a Los Angeles disc jockey team that takes you along on its fantasy stunts, such as singing with the Temptations and flying on a circus trapeze.

CAST: Mark Thompson, Brian Phelps

TIME: Tonight at 8:30, Thursday at 8:30, then Sundays at 7.

-! CHANNEL: NBC Channel 2 (WMAR)

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