Sydney offers a perfect example of a television rule you should always remember, gang: Never Dismiss a Show Because of Its Premise.
This rule is absolutely time-tested. All in the Family? A show about a bigot just has to be bad, right? Remember Bosom Buddies? Two guys dress up as girls to live in a girls dorm? Every snooty TV viewer and critic sneered at it in advance, just because of the silly premise. With Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in the leads, the show proved to be terrific. But it never recovered from that initial wave of uninformed contempt.
The premise of Sydney Valerie Bertinelli as a detective is unlikely to inspire confidence at first. After all, what has Bertinelli done? Spent her youth being cute on One Day at a Time, her late adolescence hanging out with hubby Eddie Van Halen (please note: second Eddie reference in this week's column-heavy, huh?), and her adulthood starring in weepy TV movies. Now we're supposed to buy her as a funny private investigator?
Credit Sydney creators Michael Wilson and Douglas Wyman for tackling this image problem head-on. Last week's debut was titled ''You? You're a P.I.?? and set up the series' structure: Sydney Kells (Bertinelli with freshly chopped, hennaed hair) arrives in Los Angeles for some private-eyeing; everyone takes one look at her and says, ''You? You're a private eye?'' We meet her bland, blond, best friend from college (Rebbecah Bush), her policeman brother, Billy (Matthew Perry, the comic find of the season), and the gang that hangs out in the show's primary set, a neighborhood bar. The barflies include a sleaze named Cheezy who talks like Rodney Dangerfield rossed with Fonzie. Cheezy is played by Daniel Baldwin, movie star Alec's little brother; Alec has nothing to worry about in the way of competition.
This week's Sydney continues the show's amusing self-consciousness. Someone in the bar makes a Cheers joke, and Billy the cop tells Sydney to calm down and ''be like Bonnie Franklin.'' Matthew Perry's Billy, fast-talking yet inarticulate, is a very funny charmer; so is Bertinelli. Sydney deserves some support from CBS, which in turn deserves a hit with this show. B+