When HBO runs commercials touting its ”sexy” new comedy series Dream On, you know the network means exactly one thing: Someone will be naked in it. And indeed, each episode of Dream On has a moment when a lissome young woman doffs her clothes for a few seconds; some feeble jokes are made and then the camera turns away with the visual version of a sigh of relief. Cable or not, American TV just doesn’t seem comfortable with this nudity thing, and doesn’t do it well.
All of which is too bad, because Dream On is an above-average sitcom about a New York book editor named Martin Tupper, played by Brian Benben, and his relationships with various women. Foremost among them is his ex-wife, Judith, who’s on the verge of marrying her new boyfriend but sees Martin regularly to discuss the joint custody of their 12-year-old son (Chris Demetral). As Judith, Wendie Malick sports the most imperious eyebrows on TV and manages to be frosty and sexy at the same time. (Would it be taken as good reporting or creepy wistfulness if I pointed out that Malick hasn’t done the nudity thing to date?)
Our hero Tupper is also saddled with an amusingly hostile secretary, played by Denny Dillon of fleeting Saturday Night Live fame. Here, Dillon is beguilingly obnoxious, refusing to answer the phone if she thinks Tupper isn’t too busy to answer it himself. When Tupper asks her why she’s taking a personal day, she snarls, ”It’s personal!”
Dream On is coproduced by film director John Landis (Coming to America) and features one small innovation: Tupper’s thoughts are often represented onscreen by clips from old black-and-white movies. Thus, when Judith says she’s remarrying, there’s an abrupt cut to a boxing movie in which a fighter is being hit smack in the jaw. These juxtapositions can be amusing, but they also throw off the rhythm of many of Dream On’s perfectly good jokes. B