Welcome to the Captain



8:30-9 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4

A classic comedy if ever there was one, "Welcome to the Captain," with its dinner-theater characters and traditional boy-meets-girl romance, has a wide, multigenerational appeal. I'm not sure whether it has something blue, but this single-camera sitcom from John Hamburg definitely has something old, new and borrowed.

Inserted in the midst of the CBS Monday night comedy block, the show brings a light heart and a deft comedic touch to bear on the foibles and stereotypes of Hollywood. Considering the present state of the industry, the timing couldn't be better.

Something new is Fran Kranz, who plays Josh Flug, a young writer whose short film won an Oscar five years ago but who has accomplished little since then. His girlfriend broke up with him, and he's ready to return to New York. However, his former college roommate, Marty (Chris Klein), a womanizing business manager, urges him to try once more, starting with new digs at the fabled and fabulous El Capitan.

There, he meets the warmest and wackiest group of residents since "Hot L Baltimore." Among them are terrific characters played by veterans Jeffrey Tambor (Uncle Saul, the building yenta who lives off writing residuals from "Three's Company") and Raquel Welch (as local femme fatale Charlene), who can still make hearts skip beats.

Competing with them to steal each scene is Al Madrigal, who plays doorman/desk clerk Jesus (pronounced the English, not Spanish, way).

What's borrowed is the locale. Standing in for the hulking El Capitan (called "The Captain" by residents) is the El Royale Apartments, a showbiz legend on Rossmore Avenue that, at one time or another, housed Clark Gable, Loretta Young and Judy Holliday as well as Ben Stiller, Nicholas Cage and Cameron Diaz.

In the opener, Josh meets aspiring acupuncturist Hope, played by Joanna Garcia, whose skills as a comedic actress have progressed nicely since her stint as Cheyenne, the daughter on "Reba." Hope has a boyfriend and is planning on moving back to New York, but we know better. The Josh-Hope romance becomes the center of this mildly absurd but sweetly conventional comedy.

Hamburg's script is not a laugh riot, but it has a nice gentle rhythm that feels right for this good-natured show. Production design and set decor are so good you can practically smell the carpet and cleaning supplies. Hip in tone but traditional in spirit, it's not at all hard to feel welcome at the Captain.

CBS Paramount Network Television
Executive producers: John Hamburg, Andrew Reich, Ted Cohen
Co-executive producers: Liz Astrof, Sherry Bilsing, Tucker Cawley, Ellen Plummer
Co-producer: Anders Bard
Director-creator-teleplay: John Hamburg
Director of photography: Michael Barrett
Production designer: Jeff Knipp
Editors: Dan Schalk
Composer: Tree Adams
Set designer: Maggie Martin
Casting: Anya Colloff, Amy McIntyre Britt
Josh Flug: Fran Kranz
Marty Tanner: Chris Klein
Uncle Saul: Jeffrey Tambor
Jesus: Al Madrigal
Charlene: Raquel Welch
Hope: Joanna Garcia
Astrid: Valerie Azlynn
Brad: Michael Weston
Claire: Christine Woods