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''Help Me Help You''

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 26, 2006

I didn't get around to ''Help Me Help You'' for this morning's Beacon Journal for a couple of reasons. One, I felt a greater need to file a column about the season premiere of ''Gilmore Girls'' (which was a variation on what I had already posted in this blog). Two, I forgot about it.


And that's pretty much my review of ''Help Me Help You.'' It wasn't memorable enough or provocative enough or funny enough. Not that it isn't funny in spots. And it does provide a reason to consider the TV career of Ted Danson, an actor who often gives off the air of likability while playing characters whose flaws are deep. So I'll do that now.


Sam Malone, after all, was a recovering alcoholic who at times fell off the emotional wagon, too. He seemed relatively stable because he was surrounded by far more twisted characters -- Cliff, Carla, Diane and so on. He added to his abrasiveness in the briefly seen ''Ink'' (opposite his wife, Mary Steenburgen) and then let all the edges show as the star of ''Becker.'' In that context, ''Curb Your Enthusiasm,'' where he plays himself, is a breath-catcher, a chance to let someone else carry the neurosis bag. (Hello, Larry David!)


But Danson is back in his discomfort zone in ''Help Me Help You,'' playing a therapist who could use some help himself -- especially when it comes to his former marriage, which he refuses to admit is former.


If this was just a show about Danson trying to reclaim a wife (Jane Kaczmarek) that he has all but certainly lost, that might have been a decent comedy. But ''Help Me'' isn't content to do that alone, so it veers off from the Danson story into tales of his patients. You've seen some of this before, on the old ''Bob Newhart Show'' and in Judd Hirsch's ''Dear John.'' The latter involved a support group for singles but had its band of wackos, and Jere Burns is part of the group in both ''Dear John'' and ''Help Me Help You.''


I won't argue that some of the wackiness on ''Help Me'' isn't funny. I especially like Suzy Nakamura's character, a woman hilariously lacking in social skills. But I'm not going to tune into this show every week just to wait for a good Nakamura scene. That would be like watching ''Two and a Half Men'' just for the scenes with Conchata Ferrell. Who is, by the way, very good. But if the show wasn't funny in other places, she would have to be very good without my weekly attention.


Still, getting back to ''Help Me,'' the occasional giggle doesn't compensate for the long stretches where the laughs are nonexistent. (A patient in denial about being gay is especially unamusing.) I have seen two episodes, and that's more than enough.

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