Two new comedies about gallant, stalwart crime fighters show up on — where else? — good ol' USA
Fighting crime takes it on the chin tonight, as the USA Network introduces two new single-camera comedies that delight in mocking the genre’s conventions.
"The War Next Door" is, for the time being, the more inspired of the two — inspired by countless bad movies and Mad Magazine’s "Spy vs. Spy" comic, that is. It concerns two men inextricably linked by fate both cruel and clueless. There’s the upright secret-agent hero Kennedy Smith (Linden Ashby) and evil genius Kreigman (Damian Young) — sorry, "evil super-genius" (he just got promoted), who keeps his day’s plans (guitar lessons, steal plutonium, kill Kennedy Smith) on his Palm Pilot. Their antagonism is so passionately virulent that it has virtually transformed itself into a sublimely dysfunctional friendship.
Kennedy, believing he has finally killed his sworn enemy, returns to his family in the suburbs, starts seeing a shrink and takes a job selling vintage cars. Kreigman, however, turns up, moving next door to Kennedy with an evil super-vixen named Barbara Bush (Tara Rosling), and he proceeds to make life miserable for his do-gooder opponent (by playing basketball really loudly really early in the morning).
Each episode will feature yet another clash to the death, whereupon, like "South Park" ’s Kenny, the mortally defeated combatant will arise to fight again in the next episode. It’s a concept both cheesy and morbid and, as executed in tonight’s premiere, terrifically funny.
Young essays self-satisfied diabolism with deliriously suave aplomb, while Ashby is a wonderfully stolid straight man. The series comes courtesy Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, writers of the wan movie "Snow Day," but don’t hold that against them. They’ve made amends with this silly but entertaining parody.
Meanwhile, in "Manhattan, AZ," a former Los Angeles undercover vice-squad cop seeks a life change after his wife is killed helping Greenpeace cut dolphins from tuna nets (she’s buried in cartons of tuna cans).
New sheriff David Henderson (Brian McNamara) and rebellious son Atticus Finch Henderson (Vincent Berry) turn up in the title town. It’s an arid backwater populated by militia nuts, run by a corrupt mayor (Chad Everett) and located perilously close to "Area 61," a mysterious governmental landscape for unspecified experimentation.
Tonight’s episode finds Henderson investigating how the town’s dogs all ended up with only three legs. (McNamara, in a priceless disclaimer at the end of the episode, explains that no animals were injured in the making of this show, although "we had offers").
"The War Next Door" ’s pilot and performers are funnier, but "Manhattan, AZ" ’s idea, which looks to have been cribbed from the "Bakersfield, P.D." template and mixed with a dustier "Northern Exposure," may have a more sustainable concept. As is, they’re both smartly dopey shows. The USA Network, in one evening, offers up as many amusing new comedy series as the networks were able to uncork all of last season.
The show: "The War Next Door."
What: Comedy about longtime deadly foes taking their grudge match to the suburbs.
The stars: Linden Ashby, Damian Young, Susan Walters, Tara Rosling.
Where: USA Network.
When: 9 p.m. Sundays
Our rating: ***
The show: "Manhattan, AZ."
What: Comedy about an LAPD vice-squad officer relocating to a tiny Arizona town.
The stars: Brian McNamara, Chad Everett, Vincent Berry.
Where: USA Network.
When: 9:30 p.m. Sundays.
Our rating: ***