I wish I could sue NBC for the grievous consternation, intestinal distress and aggravated low moaning I have suffered as a result of "Gimme a Break," the paleolithic comedy premiering at 9:30 tonight on Channel 4.
Indeed, on the basis of this half hour, it is not too much to ask of RCA that it close down the network and find something more useful to do with 30 Rock. Perhaps a condo.
Nell Carter, the balloonish actress of "Ain't Misbehavin' " fame, plays housekeeper to a police chief and his three sex-obsessed teen-age daughters in this coarse insult, a holdover from the Silverman era of wan wanton pandering. In the premiere, "Nell," as she is called in the script, vacuums the family goldfish out of the tank and patches up a dispute between dad and a daughter caught shoplifting.
The housekeeper as conceived and played is a combination of Hattie McDaniel and Donna Summer; two, or maybe three, racial stereotypes in one. Carter plays it as broadly and with as much sensitivity as Willie Best played a shufflin' handyman on "Life With Father" nearly three decades ago.
But let's get to the sex jokes.
Nell is teaching the tomboyish daughter how to beat up little boys. "When everything else fails, you've got to kick him where it hurts." "Where's that?" "That's another lesson."
The tomboy is asked to put on a dress. "I hate dresses. They show off your boobies. That turns boys into animals." Later she declares, "I know about sex. It's what you do when you're 16."
Another daughter and her boyfriend are reading "The Official Sex Manual," which tells how women get pregnant: "polliwogs" from the man make their way into the See GIMME, B8, Col. 3 GIMME, From B1 woman's "oven." When the father catches the daughter and the boy kissing and flies into a rage, the daughter snaps back to dad, "Didn't you ever suck face?"
When a cop brings home the daughter accused of shoplifting, he says she "kicked a store manager in the -- pause where it hurts." The chief complains that one of his cops has come out of the closet. "A gay cop. Is there nothin' sacred? How do I know he's not in there kissin' a suspect?"
The writers of this were Sy Rosen and Mort Lachman; the director was Howard Storm. I wish I could publish their addresses and their home phone numbers. And the studio audience, or the machine, that laughed at this, that went "awww" when the daughters hugged and when father and shoplifting daughter kissed and made up -- deportation proceedings should begin at once.
If I thought television could get substantially worse than this, I am not sure I would have the courage or desire ever to turn the set on again