By Shawn McKenzie 09/16/2003
When I first saw the promos for NBC’s “Whoopi,” I actually thought they were funny. I then started seeing the reviews, most of which were negative. Now that I have seen the first two episodes, I know why they were negative: the stuff in the promos is the only funny part of the show (or at least the pilot episode.)
Mavis Rae (Whoopi Goldberg) is the Lamont Hotel in Manhattan. Before becoming a hotel owner, she was a one-hit wonder pop star in the ‘80s (her one hit was called “Don’t Hide Love.”) She used the royalties to buy the hotel when she realized that hit #2 wasn’t coming. It came with the Nappy Dug Out Lounge, where she thinks she might be able to use to resurrect her career. She chain-smokes and has no qualms about saying what is on her mind. Her closest confidant in the hotel is the handyman Nasim (Omid Djalili), a Persian immigrant who gets mad when people mistake him for an Arab. Also living in the hotel is her brother Courtney (Wren T. Brown), an uptight, conservative type. He is a gifted lawyer, but he has been having trouble finding work because his last job was working for Enron. Mavis thinks he should start his own practice, but in the meantime, she is giving him a place to stay. She loves her brother, but she isn’t too crazy about his girlfriend Rita (Elizabeth Regen.) She acts like a wannabe “sista,” but she is white (in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, Mavis and Courtney are black.)
In the first episode, Mavis needs a full-time concierge, so she promotes Nasim. He doesn’t take to the job very well, because he can’t stand the questions people ask him. Mavis needs a new TV, so she goes to an electronics store where the salesman Victor (guest star Enrico Colantoni) convinces her to buy a TV that is more expensive than she originally thought. When she realizes this (after Courtney points it out), she has Nasim pretend to be her business manager and help her return it. They get in trouble when Nasim attacks Victor (for calling him an Arab), but Courtney uses his lawyer skills to get them out of trouble.
The second episode is on an “orange day.” That is the terrorist threat level, which Nasim has determined that the day is. He manages to make Mavis suspicious of everyone as well, including a group of Chinese tourists from Toronto (Nasim thinks they have SARS.) They both become freaked out when an abandoned designer briefcase is left in the hotel lobby. They call in the bomb squad, but later find out that they may have jumped the gun.
Whoopi’s character is similar to Wanda Sykes’ character on her FOX series “Wanda at Large.” They are both politically incorrect black women who don’t care what people think of them. The big difference is that Wanda is so funny that it makes up for her co-stars being not quite as funny. Whoopi is funny, but not enough to make up for her co-stars. What is worse is that Brown and Regen are so unfunny that it drags it down even further. I did like Djalili, and his interaction with Whoopi was amusing. That is the only bright spot though. Brown and Regen’s characters are so stereotyped that they are distracting (especially Regen’s character.) Also, just a minor note: why isn’t Whoopi’s character named Whoopi? I realize this isn’t the first show named after its star where the star uses a different character name, but that just irks me. I don’t know why…
I will admit that I liked the second episode better than the first episode, so I will definitely give “Whoopi” some time. Whoopi and Nasim seem to be the focus of the show, and that is where most of the comedy lies. Once the Tuesday TV landscape starts filling up though, it might be the first to go. It will compete against UPN’s “One on One,” FOX’s “Joe Millionaire 2,” and especially the WB’s “The Gilmore Girls” for my attention (and that’s not counting cable), so for it’s sake, I do hope it gets better. It could start by having Courtney dump Rita…
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!
Try to catch this show every week...
If a better show is on, tape this one...
If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...
If this show is on, change the channel immediately!