Somers, Duffy shine in 'Step by Step'


"Step by Step," a sitcom premiering at 8:30 tonight on ABC (Channel 13), turns out to be much better than expected. But then, we weren't expecting much.

In fact, we were expecting the worst: Noted bimbo Suzanne Somers ("Three's Company") and noted poker face Patrick Duffy ("Dallas") in a domestic comedy from the same producers who gave us "Full House."

But Ms. Somers and Mr. Duffy triumph over their stereotypes, and are supported by a excellent cast of actors who play their six children. "Step by Step" proves to be a superior example of the Friday-night light genre ABC has done so well.

Ms. Somers, who looks better with some age on her, and Mr. Duffy play divorced parents who bring their broods together in sort of a '90s version of "The Brady Bunch."

There's even a line that pokes fun at the actors' previous personas: "I'm bimbo and he's beefcake -- it's a long story," Ms. Somers quips.

Mr. Duffy seems thrilled to be liberated from years of earnest servitude as Bobby Ewing; he's turned into a live comic wire, eager to show America he can change expression.

But Ms. Somers has a clucky sister and mother, who do little but intrude, and there is the overwhelming presence of the too-precious kids that almost certainly will loom larger later in the season, given ABC's target audience on Fridays. It's easier to write hugs than actual jokes.

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