Sydney Kells
Created by Michael Wilson and Douglas Wyman

Valerie Bertinelli, P.I.

No, really...

Nobody's ever going to accuse Ms. Bertinelli, with her relentlessly-squeaky clean One Day At a Time TV persona and girl-next-door physique, of being one hot mama. But for a generation of us guys coming of age in the seventies, there was definitely something there.

Sure, Kate and Jacklyn and (particularly) Farrah's nipples were out there, and Wonder Woman was running around, filling out her breastplate nicely, for truth, justice and higher ratings, but how many of us were likely to run into one of Charlie's Angels, or a Greek goddess?

But Valerie Bertinelli? Man, with her neighbourhood looks and her undeniably cute face, she was definitely within the realm of possibility. I mean, she was OUR age, and we all knew someone JUST LIKE HER. And watching weekly installments of Barbara Cooper blossoming from tomboy kid sister to attractive young woman was almost required, if slightly guilty, viewing for guys. After all, everyone knew One Day at a Time was a "girl's" show.

So my view of her short-lived 1990 private eye show, Sydney, is hopelessly biased, tugged down by the memories of a horny adolescence, and the sad fact that the return of Bertinelli to prime time could never match my sweet imagination.

In this failed sitcom, Bertinelli played SYDNEY KELLS, a Los Angeles P.I., recently returned home from the Big Apple, 25 years old, fast-talking, tough (well, as tough as Bertinelli could get) and single. Standard sitcom characters also checked in, but you'd probably seen them all before -- the classy friend, the goofy boss, the goofy over-protective brother (in this case a cop, played by a pre-Friends Matthew Perry), the worrying mom, and the gruff but lovable father figure/confidante (a bartender/ex-cop). The plots were also right out of the barrel, and heavy on the cute -- cute cases, cute bad dates, lots of cute lonely single woman jokes. I kept wanting it to work, but it was obvious it wasn't.

We'd all seen it all before, on Mary Tyler Moore, That Girl, Rhoda, and a dozen other shows. We'd even seen it attempted a a P.I. show before, on the fondly-recalled Leg Work a few years previously, on the same network, in fact. But Leg Work had more real humour and humanity working for it, more originality and a more dynamic lead -- let's face it, Margaret Colin had more than just cute going for her. And that, ultimately, was the big difference.

Whether we liked it or not, Valerie Bertinelli had grown up, and so had we. And a few one-liners and the cutes didn't cut it anymore.


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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