"Washingtoon" has suffered transmutus sitcommitus but survived. Some of the fresh irreverence and much of the distinctively daft outlook of Mark Alan Stamaty's comic strip have been transferred to a live-action, half-hour "Washingtoon" that premieres today on Showtime, the innovative pay-cable network.
To some extent, merely giving flesh and voice to Rep. Bob Forehead and the other characters in Stamaty's astutely observed world spoils the fun, and the producers have not found, nor particularly seem to have searched for, a video visual equivalent of Stamaty's playfully primitive naive-art drawing style. But the TV version has been well cast, and it's a pleasure to encounter a comedy that's about something, and one that is not dominated by teen-agers.
One problem with the premiere, a pilot for a proposed series, is that Neil Cuthbert's script adaptation never gets Forehead to Washington. It concentrates on his discovery by Gerald V. Oxboggle, president of the Glominoid Corp., who catches Bob selling glow-in-the-dark coat hangers on middle-of-the-night TV, and on Forehead's campaign for Congress as Oxboggle's flunky, a candidate who'd be right at home with those ghastly New Republicans we're all terrified of running into at the salad bar at Roy Rogers. Bob is put through rigorous analysis by the charismometer and advised by one of the stop-sleeve-rollup men in politics, whose prescription is 2 B.E., which means, sleeves rolled up to a point two inches below the elbow.
Forehead wins the election against popular incumbent Paul Crumbs thanks to a TV debate, even though it is said of Crumbs that as an incumbent who is way ahead in the polls, "he'd be a fool to debate," but These Things Happen, heaven knows! During the debate, each candidate tries to one-up the other on what kinds of torture and hell they would go through rather than cut so much as one penny from Social Security. Bob allows as he would kill himself and his family before he would vote for such a dastardly thing.
Tom Callaway is the right combination of no integrity plus no imagination as Bob, who runs on a platform of "old values, new ideas." Barry Corbin, the no-nonsense Pentagon general in "WarGames," has a roaring good time with Oxboggle. Anne Lockhart plays Bob's wife Ginger, whose words of encouragement when Bob is thinking about running for Congress include "They've got some nice restaurants in Washington." Unfortunately, the Forehead children have been expanded in this TV version (the kind of demographically motivated slicko thinking that it would be nice to escape on cable) and keep getting in the way with snidecracks and whines.
All in all, a promising beginning, despite the blunting of darts and a general tidying up that inhibits the satire. In a press release, Showtime notes that "Washingtoon" appears, among other places, on "the sacred op-ed pages of The Washington Post." Gosh! Sacred? If op-ed is sacred, what does that make ed?