You have to give TV Land credit for finding and sticking to a successful formula for its original programming: Sitcoms like Hot in Cleveland and The Exes take seasoned sitcom veterans, stick them in stock sitcom scenarios, have them deliver hackneyed jokes and then amp up the audience reaction. These shows aren't creative, original or funny, but the presence of stars like Wendie Malick or Kristen Johnston or Wayne Knight sometimes makes them at least tolerable. Kirstie follows the same formula, teaming Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman and Michael Richards with newcomer Eric Petersen for the kind of show that could easily have been imported directly from an alternate version of 1993.
Although the show is named after its star, the main character isn't; Alley plays Madison Banks, a vain Broadway diva who reconnects with the son she gave up for adoption 20-some years earlier (Petersen). The contrast between self-centered showbiz lifer Madison and her naive, humble son Arlo is the source of the majority of the obvious humor, with Perlman and Richards chiming in as Madison's assistant and driver, respectively. Obviously the three veterans are good at what they do, and the show lets them play to their strengths, with Perlman as the no-nonsense truth-teller and Richards as the weirdo. But the material is universally dire, all obvious, belabored jokes and contrived storylines (starting with the basic premise). No matter how talented these performers are (and Alley is trying too hard to come off as self-deprecating), they can't salvage the material or transcend the format.
That's the double-edged sword of TV Land's original sitcoms, which bring back beloved actors and then trap them in terrible shows that serve mainly to remind audiences of how good they were when they had better material to work with. To be honest, I couldn't even make it through the three episodes of Kirstie that TV Land sent for review; after two, I gave up, unable to take any more exaggerated double entendres or forced emotional moments. It seems like the TV Land audience, however, can't get enough of them. Premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on TV Land.