10 May 2005 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
This lad, he's not for Durning.
Character actor Charles Durning really paid his dues. In his early scuffling days, he earned a living between roles by working as a dance instructor. Eventually he was hired by Joe Papp for Papp's repertory troupe performing Shakespeare's plays in Manhattan's Central Park. Durning honed his skills in Shakespeare's clown roles. Hoping to broaden his range, Durning asked Papp to cast him in other roles ... at which point Papp told him: 'You're here to serve our needs. We're not here to serve your needs.'
By the time Durning accepted the lead role in the sitcom 'The Cop and the Kid', he'd been a struggling stage actor for years, and probably felt he was entitled to take the big bucks for an easy television gig. But this show was a very poor choice. 'The Cop and the Kid' was pathetically unfunny, and its attempts at serious character interaction didn't work. This show feels like a cynical attempt to repeat the formula of 'Chico and the Man', but lacks the witty scripts of that show ... and suffers from too many of those 'awwww' moments that ruin so many Yank sitcoms.
Cynical white L.A. cop Frank Murphy (Durning) has arrested street-wise black kid Lucas Adams once too often. Everyone else is ready to throw Lucas into Juvenile Hall and let him rot, but Murphy (a tough guy with a heart of gold, natch) realises that Lucas never had a break. He gets himself appointed Lucas's guardian, enrols him in school, and invites the kid to move in with him. As bachelor Murphy can't raise the kid alone, cue the entrance of Murphy's mother. (Alleged comedy byplay from Patsy Kelly. The day I laugh at Patsy Kelly, comes the Apocalypse.)
The alleged humour comes from the jousting between Murphy and Lucas: the kid keeps pulling new criminal scams right under Murphy's nose, usually involving Lucas's street buddy Short Stuff. But Murphy (usually) finds out about the scams and defeats them. Maybe.
A fatal flaw in this unfunny show was the utter lack of chemistry between the child 'actors'(?) playing Lucas and Short Stuff, as well as between Lucas and Murphy. Also, the scriptwriters undercut their own premise, routinely depicting Lucas as a lovable scamp who would never do anything *really* bad, yet who somehow had amassed a long juvenile arrest record. Pudding-faced Patsy Kelly does her usual cynical-broad routine, with unfunny punchlines telegraphed a mile away.
This Yank sitcom was never transmitted in Britain (no loss!), but I saw a few episodes at a screening in London when Paramount hoped to sell the UK syndication rights. One typical episode depicted Lucas and Short Stuff trying to run an illegal football betting pool. They need a point spread for every game, but can't calculate an appropriate spread for Notre Dame. Lucas asks Murphy to rate Notre Dame. Apparently motivated by his Irish chauvinism, Murphy brags that Notre Dame can beat any other team by 50 points. So, Lucas and Short Stuff make book with that spread. When Murphy finds out, he gleefully tells the lads that -- to 'teach them a lesson' -- Lucas and Short Stuff will have to pay off their bettors when Notre Dame fail to cover the spread. But then the opposing team's bus has an accident, forcing them to field all their substitutes ... and Notre Dame covers the point spread! Ha bloody ha.
This show stank, and I'll bet -- with NO point spread -- that Charles Durning doesn't list it among his credits.