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TV Series Review

A big-screen résumé doesn’t always guarantee a successful television series. But film actor Jim Belushi (Joe Somebody, Return to Me), with help from TV’s Courtney Thorne-Smith (Ally McBeal, Melrose Place), has made it big on ABC’s family sitcom According to Jim. True to form, Belushi plays a slightly off-kilter everyman—named Jim, of course—raising a family in the Chicago suburbs. Thorne-Smith (best known for playing vixens in prime time) is his wife Cheryl, a down-to-earth homemaker.

It’s an old gag: the clueless husband and his forbearing wife. But while predictable, According to Jim exuberantly dramatizes a string of tidy moral lessons. When the couple’s cute-as-a-button daughter, Ruby, gets cast for a newspaper ad, Jim and Cheryl argue over how far they should push her fledgling career. In the end, they conclude that providing emotional protection and security for their 6-year-old is more important than making her a star.

In another episode, Jim makes the mistake of telling Cheryl that he is the breadwinner, so their money is really his. What follows is a touching lesson on respect, equality and the value society should place on stay-at-home moms. "Technically, Jim, you were right," Cheryl says. "You do make the money. But we both earn it. . . . What I do is not nothing. I’m turning out people!" Her point is well taken.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, a story focused on privacy and why intimacy should stay within the marriage bond. After Cheryl gives Jim some sexy pictures of herself, he offers his friends a peek (without seeing the photo, viewers are assured it’s not X-rated). Chagrined, Cheryl yells, "You have no right to objectify me so you can look like a big man in front of your friends!" She’s right and he knows it.

Although it does a lot of things right, According to Jim still resorts to typical sitcom jokes about pornography, mild bathroom humor and sexual innuendo (most of it sly banter between Jim and Cheryl). Swearing, smoking and alcohol use also intrude.

Responding to the fact that his show’s standards are higher than most, Belushi jokes, "We’re going to stick with the family values kind of thing until the ratings dip, and then we’re going to bring a lot of hookers on." So, does that mean if the ratings climb, he’ll clean up what dirt is already there?

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 23, 30, Feb. 13, 27, March 6, 2002

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Steven Isaac

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