What an odd and varied career Howie Mandel has had so far. He started out as a manic prop comic, a wilder and crazier (and less funny) guy than Steve Martin; he became a TV star as the puppy-dog-likable Fiscus on the doctor drama St. Elsewhere; he now stars in one of the season's worst new prime-time comedies, Good Grief; and he's the creator of one of Saturday-morning television's most charming new kids' shows, Bobby's World.
Bobby is a cartoon embodiment of the squeaky little voice Mandel had used onstage in monologues. As a cartoon, bright-eyed little Bobby has an overactive imagination: The show is built around the depiction of his daydreams, his wildly exaggerated fantasies. These range from what might happen if his grandmother hugs and kisses him too hard (Bobby imagines drowning in a pink sea of affectionate flesh) to hallucinating scary animals outside his tent when he and his Uncle Ted camp out in the backyard.
Bobby's adventures move along briskly, the animation is pretty lively, and it's nice to see a Saturday-morning cartoon that isn't based on a movie or some variation of New Kids on the Block. Some of Bobby's humor seems directed at adults more than children. For example: ''Being scared is nothing more than a fear of the unknown,'' Uncle Ted says. ''What's the unknown?'' asks Bobby. ''Your Aunt Ruth's weight,'' says Ted. My kids looked at the TV screen blankly; I snickered in spite.
Mandel provides the voice for the cartoon Bobby, and does one of his nerve-wracking manic-comic routines in person to introduce and conclude each episode. (''I don't think that real guy in the beginning and end was funny,'' remarked a child in my house yes, I'm raising her to be a critic.)
Trivia note: The bright, zippy music for this show is written by Entertainment Tonight cohost John Tesh. B