Sleepy like a hoot owl, maybe, or comatose like a hibernating bear, perhaps, but "Crazy Like a Fox" is not the best title for the suffocatingly predictable comedy-crime series CBS will premiere Sunday night at 9 on Channel 9. If animal similes are in order, then the old tune "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" offers the most appropriate one.
The "Fox" in the title, and in the rickety coop of a premise, is old Harry Fox, wide-bodied private investigator in photogenic San Francisco who is just the livin' bedevilment of his son Harrison, a young lawyer. The gimmick here is that pops is the reckless nincompoop and his son the stuffed shirt. In Hollywood, the rearrangement of threadbare cliche's is considered a creative act.
Both the leads are aggressively unappealing. Jack Warden as Fox pe re looks lost and bored, the latter justifiably, and his character as written is not lovable, just a duncey nuisance. As Fox fils, John Rubinstein mugs, gawks, and twists his ugly face into slapstick contortions.
The male bonding aspects are embarrassingly inane, the rascally foil elements are embarrassingly derivative, and the cutesy-caper antics are embarrassingly wee. But what do you want to bet that none of those involved in this botch, including the four writers it took to compose the pilot script, has the capacity to be embarrassed? And of course it is impossible to embarrass a television network.
In the premiere, the detective father involves his lawyer son in the case of a man who has spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his wife only to discover upon leaving that she is still alive. Well, he always meant to kill her, so he announces, "I've got a freebie coming" and sets homicidally off under the assumption he cannot be tried for the same crime twice.
The plot makes a crooked turn about halfway through when $500,000 worth of rare coins enters the picture, and the husband leaves it, but everything that happens is so sadly strained and mechanical that it may dawn even on the family dog that he's seen it all before. This kind of television is dead dead dead, and "Fox" just another in a long line of failed exhumations.