To counter 30-odd years of TV's daft escapist fantasies about impossibly heroic men, we may now get 30 years of daft escapist fantasies about impossibly heroic women -- starting with Jessica Novak, who makes Wonder Woman look like an underachiever.
Here she is, folks, the most sure-footed, bighearted, two-fisted take-charge gal since Sheena, Queen of the Jungle: the inimitable Jessica, heroine par excellence of the new CBS series "Jessica Novak: Closeup News," premiering tonight at 10 on Channel 9. If Jessica can't do it, and without mussing her hair besides, then it probably doesn't need to be done.
Since Jessica is supposed to be the star reporter for a Los Angeles TV station, they might have called her Louise Grant (the show can be considered low-grade "Lou"). And since in the first show of the series she not only shows her boss how to get a great story but also shows the police how to nab a sniper, maybe she should be called "Jessica Kojak."
Or maybe Jessica Chapstick. It doesn't really matter.
The most recklessly participatory journalist since Lois Lane, Jessica is also twinklier than Tinker Bell and more colorful than Lydia the Tattooed Lady. She may be a sign of the times, and a jane-dandy figure for little girls to look up to, but if future episodes are as much a crock as the first one, this series is not going to have a very devastating relationship to real life.
When we first meet Jessica, played with pursed face by Helen Shaver, formerly of Larry Gelbart's "United States," she is completing a busy day on the job. She covered a big fire, the wedding of two extremely senior citizens, and now she gloms on to her big story, that of a mother whose husband has run off with the kids. Jessica springs into action like a bat out of heaven. "Couldn't we get into a little in-depth investigative reporting?" she asks her pea-brained editor, played by the obnoxious David Spielberg.
Of course he says no. That's about all he ever does say. Once he says "no no no," and then writer Jerry Ludwig and director Steven Hilliard Stern use the cheap trick of cutting to a scene that shows he later relented and Jessica got her way. Why shouldn't she? Doesn't the boss realize that this former Walla Walla weathergirl is always right? It doesn't take us 10 minutes to figure that out.
Jessica also yells at the cops, who don't know how to do their jobs, but her cameraman knows Jessica is tops. And we know he is a suffering sensitive soul because he tells us with a very grim look in his eye that he was "the youngest news cameraman in Vietnam." Heavy. So heavy it could sink a ship.
The cameraman's abridged autobiography is delivered during the last big scene of the show, when the cops have surrounded a motel where the deranged daddy is staying, locked inside with his frightened kids. The SWAT team arrives and the cops ask the man to come out with his hands up, or something to that effect. He says he won't. He fires a shot. Things are getting sticky. Whatever shall we do?
THIS looks like a job for JESSICA!
"Officer, can I try it, please?" she asks, taking the bullhorn by the, er, horn. The man in the motel says he will talk to Jessica. She should come in with her hands up, or something to that effect. The sound man pins a mike on Jessica. The cops tell her not to go in there. Her boss, over the radio, tells her not to go in there. But does that stop Jessica? Need anyone ask? In only one shake of a lamb's tail she is inside the motel talking calm sense to the man, whose derangement ceases. And all this goes out live over the air.
Jessica finds out the man lost his job on an auto assembly line. He went bonkers because of economic strife -- he is a victim of The System! We are ALL to blame! Jessica, you've saved the day again, and taught us a valuable lesson besides! Now go home, cook dinner, and slip into something flimsy, you sexy thing.