Young, warm actress buds in `Blossom’ debut

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
January 3, 1991

2 out of 4 stars

The latest series by the creators of “The Golden Girls” and “Empty Nest” relies on the talents of a teenager to carry it off.

Judging by the pilot episode of “Blossom,” airing from 7:30 to 8 tonight on WMAQ-Channel 5, Mayim Bialik’s likable personality is the primary reason to watch this new comedy. (After tonight’s premiere, “Blossom” will air from 7:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays on Channel 5.)

A high school sophomore, Bialik more than holds her own in the title role opposite a cast of older, more experienced actors. Her co-stars include Ted Wass (of “Soap” fame) as her befuddled father and Eileen Brennan as their cantankerous neighbor.

Bialik portrays 14-year-old Blossom Russo, the lone female in a household that includes two very immature older brothers.

In tonight’s episode, Blossom’s coming-of-age is dealt with in a way that could make viewers uncomfortable. What could have been a touching and humorous look at how she views her first menstrual cycle with both amazement and fear is instead turned into a tacky lesson on what not to do in comedy.

The producers may believe that portraying men as stereotypically ignorant clods when it comes to women’s issues is funny, but it’s not. It’s hackneyed. Even in the make-believe world of television, it’s difficult to accept that a 40ish father would call his 16- and 19-year-old sons into a family conference to announce that their baby sister had her first period – and then take the family out to a Chinese dinner to celebrate this event.

“Blossom” is better when Bialik is left on her own.  A talented, expressive young actress whom many moviegoers saw in “Beaches” (she played the young Bette Midler character), she is not cloyingly cute, precocious or Hollywood pretty. Petite, intelligent and unaffected, she projects a genuine warmth.

One of the funniest moments in tonight’s program occurs during a dream sequence, as Blossom fantasizes about the ideal mother: Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) of “The Cosby Show.”  The scene is both amusing and poignant, because it conveys just how much Blossom needs and wants a mother.

A screening of a future episode indicates that the series holds promise. The secondary characters are developed more, and former Chicagoan Michael Stoyanov shines as Anthony, Blossom’s eldest, former druggie brother.  With his droll sense of humor and clean-cut looks, Stoyanov is Bialik’s perfect foil.

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