The First Season
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All photos © Paramount
Reviewed by Will Harris
aybe it’s just because I’ve become a work-at-home writer who’s also a husband and a father, but “Dave’s World” seems to have gotten a heck of a lot funnier in the 15 years since I last watched it. Although the show is ostensibly based on the columns of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dave Barry, with the lead character sharing both his name and profession, the show suffered from complaints by many of the writer’s fans who suggested that the similarities were limited. If you go in without any particular expectations, however, what you’ll find is a highly enjoyable (if not necessarily groundbreaking) family sitcom.
Harry Anderson is Dave Barry, columnist for the Miami Times-Dispatch, where he regularly writes of his experiences with his two sons, Willie (Andrew Decote) and Tommy (Zane Carney), and his wife Beth (DeLane Matthews), along with other slice-of-life pieces. Sometimes the plotlines of “Dave’s World” focus on Dave actually trying to write one of his columns, such as in the self-explanatory episode entitled “Writer’s Block,” or when he writes an unflattering piece about a used car salesman (played by Fred Willard), but as often as not, they’re really just about the foibles of family life, from vacations to household repairs, kids’ sports teams to wedding anniversaries.
Also playing a major role in the series are Dave’s two best friends: plastic surgeon Dr. Shel Baylor (Meshach Taylor, late of “Designing Women”) and Kenny Beckett (Shadoe Stevens), a.k.a. Dave’s editor at the Times-Dispatch. It was a plum role for Taylor, who confirmed that he didn’t need to be surrounded by Southern belles to be funny, but Stevens’ comedic turn was a bit more surprising, since he’d previously been known for his voiceover and announcer work than his acting. (Ever seen “Traxx,” Stevens’ lone turn as an action star? Don’t bother.)
Anderson is one of those comedians who can say as much with a slight smirk and a raised eyebrow as he can with a one-liner, but he’s gifted with the ability to deliver both with impeccable timing. Although his portrayal of Dave Barry is in no way as memorable a performance as Harry Stone on “Night Court,” Anderson’s delivery keeps the show afloat at all times, and the scenes where he interacts with Stevens and Taylor are consistent highlights from episode to episode. That’s not to say that there isn’t chemistry between Anderson and Matthews – they do pretty well together, and Decote and Carney aren’t bad as child actors go – but it’s definitely the friendship between Dave, Kenny and Shel that keeps the show afloat beyond the family aspect of the show.
One caveat for existing fans of the series: it will come as no surprise to anyone who bought CBS / Paramount’s “Bosom Buddies” sets and found Billy Joel’s “My Life” replaced as that series’ theme song that the company has also opted not to fork over the dough to keep Southside Johnny’s cover of “You May Be Right” as the theme for “Dave’s World.” It’s not like it’s as irreplaceable as, say, The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You” would be for “Friends,” but its disappearing act is still pretty annoying.
Special Features: CBS/Paramount continues their all-or-nothing methodology of providing special features, and in the case of “Dave’s World,” fans get a big fat goose-egg’s worth of bonuses.