One thing's for certain: A little Fran Drescher goes a long way
Lock the doors and hide the kids: She's back with that ingratiating laugh and nasal drawl.
The outgoing and vivacious comic actress with the flowing black locks and "how-ah-ya" New Jersey whine returns to episodic television with a new half-hour sitcom called "Living With Fran."
If you're a fan of Drescher's - and there must be plenty of them out there for her to have a successful career that included TV's "The Nanny" - then you might enjoy her occasional effervescence. But her personality comes with the same stale jokes, stilted dialogue and contrived sitcom situations of "The Nanny."
In "Living With Fran," Drescher plays an interior decorator and divorcee who is shacking up with the much-younger Riley, the contractor who helped redecorate her home (played by Ryan McPartlin).
That's supposed to be the eye-opening turn in this musty sitcom. But considering that this is a show that comes from Hollywood, an older woman living with a boy toy shouldn't be a shocking twist at all.
Living with them is Fran's cynical and bratty 15-year-old daughter Allison (Misti Traya, "Huff"). But in the pilot episode, airing tonight, it's her 21-year-old son Josh (Ben Feldman) who is shocked and dismayed by his mom's new boyfriend when he comes home after dropping out of medical school.
That leads to typical sitcom conflict between son and mother and son and boyfriend, with bad jokes lingering in the air as long as Drescher's infamous staccato laugh.
In fact, the new cast - save for Feldman, who has an interesting presence - is so bland, when "Dukes of Hazzard's" John Schneider and "Taxi's" Marilu Henner appear in another episode as Riley's parents, they have more command of the TV screen than any of the show's stars.
The blame doesn't necessarily go to Drescher, who I have thought was sweet in one or two other things (though so few, I can't remember them). The problems are writers who don't know how to take advantage of her occasional charm and directors who don't know how to bring it out.
Having Fran as your nanny was hard enough. But "Living With Fran" is out-and-out torture.
Casting coup? If there is one thing I remember about ousted "American Idol" contestant Mikalah Gordon (it certainly wasn't her voice), it's that she looked and sounded exactly like a younger version of Fran Drescher.
When the 17-year-old sassy wannabe singer opened her mouth to talk, out came that same New Jersey drawl - and their attitudes was uncannily similar.
When I first heard Gordon on "American Idol," I thought, "They should put her in a sitcom with Drescher as her daughter!"
Then I thought, "Wait, that would mean there would be two people who sound like that on television."
Then the idea evaporated as quickly as it came.
Forget I even mentioned it.
Television columnist Vince Horiuchi appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org