Ken Tucker
March 11, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

On last season’s Jackie Thomas Show, Tom Arnold played up his vulgar, abrasive side as an egomaniacal TV star. On the new Tom, Arnold is pushing his eager-beaver, smiley-guy aspect. The result is a more pleasant show, but who needs pleasantness in a sitcom? Here he’s Tom Graham, a working-class stiff intent on building his dream house. In the meantime, he, his wife (Alison LaPlaca, also from Jackie Thomas), and five children are living in a shabby construction trailer next to a deep hole Tom has dug for the foundation of that future home.

Like his wife on her show, Roseanne, Arnold wants to elicit laughs from lower-middle-class life; the difference is that Roseanne does this without ridiculing that economic stratum, while Tom gets its biggest studio-audience laugh by having its youngest child ask, ”Are we white trash?”

Arnold is best when he’s delivering cheerfully odd threats (”If that hole isn’t drained by dinnertime, everybody’s gettin’ haircuts”); LaPlaca is best just about all the time — she long ago established herself as an expert at giving mediocre lines a wry twist that renders them funny. She has her work cut out for her here, but I laughed even when all she said was, ”God has given up on us.”

Tom and Roseanne Arnold are co-executive producers (along with Steve Pepoon), and on his second sitcom shot, Tom’s once again surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including the cleverly aggressive Colleen Camp (Wayne’s World) as his bossy sister. It remains to be seen whether Tom can wring guffaws from that big brood of kids, but for beguiling charm, you can’t beat the twin girls played by Tiffany and Kathryn Lubran. C

You May Like