NBC rolls out two new sitcoms for its "must-see" Thursday lineup -- maybe this means the network bigwigs have finally admitted neither "Jesse" nor "Stark Raving Mad" is going to cut it -- and they may actually have a hit with one of them.
But first, let's talk about "Daddio."
Mining laughs from a stay-at-home dad who doesn't seem to quite fit in with the moms (original concept, huh?), "Daddio" stars Michael Chiklis ("The Commish") as Michael Woods, who finds himself thrust into the mommy's role when his wife, Linda (Anita Barone), lands a job with a law firm. He's OK with this, and so are the kids especially middle kid Max (Martin Spanjers), who figures this is his chance to get away with stuff his mom wouldn't let slide.
Less comfortable with the concept are neighbors Barb and Holly (Amy Wilson and Suzy Nakamura), who had formed a "Mommys group" with Linda. Michael gamely struggles to fit in, although he draws the line when the moms discuss toughening up their nipples in preparation for breast-feeding.
Positively aghast at the concept is Neanderthal neighbor Bobick (Steve Ryan), an ex-Marine who decides Michael is enjoying this mom role way too much. Bobick exists mainly to look square-jawed and toss out wisecracks.
Besides setting up these little conflicts, tonight's premiere has eldest child Shannon (Cristina Kernan) thwarted in her attempt to join the school baseball team. This offers a chance for a cute little father-daughter moment that cements the idea that Michael really is one great guy.
"Daddio" is far from the season's most original sitcom; there's even an oddball neighbor, Rod (Kevin Crowley), who seems destined to be its version of Cosmo Kramer. The pilot includes some gentle laughs, and Chiklis gives it his all -- sometimes perhaps too much, as though he's determined to make the show a hit through sheer force of will.
I doubt he has enough will. "Daddio" can best be described as cute, and that's not usually an adjective associated with NBC's Thursday-night lineup, at least not with the hits.
Considerably better -- both in terms of fit and quality -- is "Battery Park," a police comedy from executive producer Gary David Goldberg ("Family Ties," "Spin City"). An intriguing blend of "Barney Miller" and "The Naked Gun," it's an ensemble comedy with an appealing cast and an off-center sensibility that makes it a keeper, or at least worth checking out the next few weeks.
Easily the best thing about "Battery Park" is Elizabeth Perkins as the steadfastly cynical precinct captain Madeleine Dunleavy. Her deadpan delivery and reluctant embrace of her mother-hen role make her a hit every time she appears on screen.
Tonight's opener centers on Ben (Justin Louis), a squeaky-clean detective who develops an attraction to a mobster boss' daughter named Maria (Wendy Moniz). Of course, nobody is pleased with this combination, least of all the department's internal affairs division, whose humorless investigator promises to keep a watch on Ben at all times.
In one of the show's cleverest bits, Dunleavy calls a meeting with the mob bosses, not to further the cause of justice, but to see what they can do about Ben and Maria. "Kids today," Dunleavy sighs, as the rotund crime bosses nod in agreement. "Sopranos" fans should enjoy the funny twist on familiar terrain.
"Battery Park" has plenty of winning moments, especially a running gag involving a hard-luck case named Raymond Gideon (Sam Lloyd), who suffers from such chronic bad luck that the only safe place for him to spend the night is a police cell. Naturally, the squad room's resident sexpot, Elena (Jacqueline Obradora) finds him well-nigh irresistible.
Then there's the rookie cop who finds his high-school English teacher busted for being a madam. Oh my.
"Battery Park" suffers the occasional misstep, notably when it tries for some "Naked Gun"-type absurdities; the result is a mix of styles that doesn't always work. But that shouldn't stop the show from trying -- here's betting these New York cops have a lot more laughs yet in them.