“Variety” Episode Review: “Aunt Verne Knows Best”
Taped in Los Angeles by Witt/Thomas/Harris Prods. in association with Touchstone Television. Exec producers, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Fred Freeman, Lawrence J. Cohen, Arnie Kogen, Rob Lazebnik, Susan Harris; exec in charge of production, Susan Palladino; co-exec producer, Roger Garrett; supervising producers, Pat Dougherty, David Richardson, Peter Galley; producer, Gilbert Junger; associate producer, Joanne Diaz-Koegl; director, Steve Zuckerman; writers, Ursula Ziegler, Steve Sullivan; creator, Harris.
Cast: Richard Mulligan, Dinah Manoff, David Leisure, Park Overall, Paul Provenza, Lisa Rieffel, Joey Lawrence, Art Metrano, Renee Humphrey.
This quirky sitcom, in its fifth season, features a script that’s fast, easily digestible and at times very funny, and a cast who have developed well-rounded and likable characters.
Richard Mulligan is reassuring as widowed pediatrician who, with two grown daughters living at home, offers a strong, stabilizing presence to friends and family, even if at times he’s not always quite together for himself.
In the episode reviewed, the story primarily centers around Laverne, Harry’s southern, overbearing nurse (played with relish by Park Overall). Her young nephew, Wade (guest star Joey Lawrence, from NBC’s “Blossom”), comes to stay while he attends Miami University, and her persistent interference starts to restrict his lifestyle.
The secondary storyline concerns the anxiety of Carol (Dinah Manoff) due to the realization that her six-month anniversary with her boyfriend is coming up. Since no previous relationship ever sustained past this point, she hilariously embarks upon plans for “spontaneity” in their lives, to help revive what she perceives as a potentially stale relationship.
While “Empty Nest” may not be classic, it does bear up well in the world of disposable sitcoms.
Mulligan, being a very funny and charismatic actor, is undoubtedly the draw for the most part, but without the talented production and creative teams, show would surely not have had such stamina and staying power.
Editor, Wendy Braff; sound, Ed Epstein; production designer, Edward Stephenson; music, George Aliceson Tipton.
Reviewed by Griffin Gilbert