Cute cute cute! That's how the new TV version of "Ferris Bueller" begins. It's based on the hit comedy movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" starring the likable Matthew Broderick. So Charlie Schlatter, the unlikable actor inheriting the role for television, tackles inevitable comparisons head-on.
"Come on -- Matthew Broderick as me? No way," he says. "He's too white bread." Schlatter takes a chain saw and hacks off the head of a Matthew Broderick cardboard cutout. "This is television. This is real," he says.
Oh, then this is the "real" Ferris Bueller? Fine. Now will the real Ferris Bueller please shut up.
Bueller, in case you missed the film, is a smart-alecky slickster and beater of the system who is the envy of nearly everyone in his junior class at high school. The NBC series, previewing at 8:30 tonight on Channel 4, continues this conceit, but without much verve or conviction.
Besides, the show is mining territory already plundered by last year's ABC series "The Marshall Chronicles." In addition, Fox has a lousy new series in the bullpen called "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," which is the same basic premise.
Please, please -- let's send all these hip and cool teenage wisenheimers to Parris Island for intensive training.
The Ferris Bueller brand of scampery is particularly hard to stomach. He doesn't just challenge authority; he gets his laughs by causing the fathead principal to fall through a stage during a speech to the student body. Earlier the speech is interrupted for a cry of "up yours" from someone in the audience.
But Ferris is a good egg at heart, the writers and producers tell us, because he's "committed to the environment." Not that again! He should be committed to a home for wayward youth.
To kids in the audience, once the first episode's paltry adventures are over, Ferris offers advice: "If Mom and Dad give you a hard time, it's only because they've been there." Where? There. "Ferris Bueller" is the proverbial lead balloon.