'Here and Now' hopes to capture 'Cosby' audience


If you felt sad back in May watching Theo graduate and saying goodbye to the Huxtables in the final episode of "Cosby," NBC has something it hopes will make you feel better at 8 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2).

"Here and Now," a new sitcom starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner, is Theo-three-months-later in everything but name. Warner's new character is named Alexander James instead of Theo Huxtable.

But James is a graduate student working part time as a youth counselor in New York City, just as Theo might be on the time line of the "Cosby" sitcom universe. And James walks, talks and thinks just like Theo Huxtable.

None of this is too surprising, of course, since Bill Cosby is an executive producer of "Here and Now," and NBC desperately needs to hold on to as many viewers who loved Theo and the other Huxtables as it can.

The series just might deliver for NBC. The pilot is full of much promise and a couple of major flaws.

Most of the action takes place at the youth center, which is filled with a talented bunch of kids. The actors -- almost to a kid -- are knee-deep in attitude without being so cutesy and precocious that you want to gag. And Warner is a remarkably easy-going and engaging presence.

The problem tonight is that the show tackles a deep and complicated problem -- drug abuse and drug dealing -- and offers the kind of resolution that works fine when it involves Theo failing a geometry test, but seems super-sitcom-simplistic when applied to drugs.

There are surely not as many laughs. But this is a series that looks like it wants to be as rich in great role models and messages as "Cosby" was.

And that's more than enough reason to root for it.

'Here and Now'

When: Tonight at 8.

Where: WMAR (Channel 2).

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