Sheriff Lobo could learn something from Sergeant Bilko. He could also learn something from Abbott and Costello. Indeed, there is so much he needs to learn, and from so many, that he presents himself to America a patently hopeless case when NBC's "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo" premieres at 8 tonight on Channel 4.
Lobo, a shady sheriff in lowly Orly County, was introduced last year as a character on "B.J. and the Bear," nobody's favorite show. Now he has been factored out and a paper-shell series has been built around him.As a conman, he completely lacks the immortal Bilko's charisma, and as half of a slapstick duo with a klutzy deputy named Perkins, he makes Abbott and Costello look like stars of the Ballet Russe.
Obviously constructed to capitalize on such agrarian-proletarian movie hits as "Smokey and the Bandit" and its CBS TV clone, "The Dukes of Hazard," NBC's "Lobo" proves at least one rube too many, though it does have the requisite car crashes, girls in cut-offs and dunks in the drink -- most of them in the opening credits.
Claude Akins, best cast as a heavy in most senses of that word, interprets the role of the conniving sheriff with all the delicacy and finesse of an elephant on a tightrope, and he is given no assistance by Mills Watson as the moronic Deputy Perkins. Blond Brian Kerwin has a harmless, likeable goofiness as the one honest cop on the force, Birdwell Hawkins, but it's hardly enough to salvage the under-written and over-played cut-rate shenanigans.
The plot of the premiere is a convoluted mess involving a hidden $2 million, the mechanical shark from "Jaws" and an alleged real shark which is also played by the mechanical shark from "Jaws." Actually, the mechanical shark from "Jaws" is the least mechanical thing about the show.
Once an editor assigned a reporter to go to Martha's Vineyard during the shooting of "Jaws" and write about the havoc being created there by the movie crew. The editor said, "Have they got mechanical sharks chasing people all over the island, or what?" The reporter thought this image very funny; toy fish whizzing through the streets of a resort town and scaring folks silly.
It turned out to be a different story, but the funny possibilities remain. In "Lobo," though, about all the shark does is flounder upon a beach and lie there. And that's all "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo" does, too.