One of the frustrating things about being a TV critic is that every so often, you see someone that *should* be a star. But they end up buried in thankless roles in hapless programs. And you find yourself secretly hoping that someday they'll finally get their chance to shine.
I've always felt that way about Cynthia Stevenson. She's suffered through a procession of roles that only hinted at her talents. She first popped up in a recurring role as Norm Peterson's obsessive secretary on Cheers, but it was all downhill from there. She had a stint as "Trisha," Bob Newhart's daughter on the quickly canceled sitcom, Bob; a starring role on Hope And Gloria; she even played the budding talk show host in the syndicated series My Talk Show. But the programs never lasted, and she was always left being the actress who should have been a contender.
Oh, Baby! is the type of sitcom that the broadcast network weasels would never green-light. While the broadcast executives have no problem airing a series with a lot of sex or violence, pitching a show where the lead is artificially inseminated would have heads exploding all over the executive suite.
It's their loss.
Stevenson plays Tracy, a woman in her 30's with a biological clock ticking like a bomb at a South African Planet Hollywood. She'd love to settle down, and hopes to get married someday. Unfortunately, her boyfriend Grant is not exactly the domestic type.
Tracy takes us through the scenes that led up to her decision to be artificially inseminated, beginning with her three-year anniversary celebration with the moron de jour Grant, who pulls out a black jewelry box over dinner and proceeds to give her...a turquoise ring. As she tells him, that's not exactly an engagement ring..."unless you're an Aztec."
Things don't get much better at work, as it seems like every woman in the office is pregnant but her. And she doesn't exactly have a great bunch of people to use as a support group. Her best friend Charlotte (Joanna Gleason)is the office psychiatrist and after two divorces she's turned into the world of romance's dark princess. Tracy's mother (Jessica Walter) is incapable of having any conversation without the word "I" in it, and her brother Ernie (Matt Champagne) is living a life of quiet desperation, stuck in middle management and in the midst of an unhappy marriage when all he really wants to do is go to Europe and paint.
I couldn't be farther away from the target market for this series, but I really enjoyed it. Stevenson is delightful, the insemination seems logical and not at all a plot device, and I was left wanting more.
Which, now that I think about it, is the same feeling that has gripped Tracy. Geez, maybe that *is* my biological clock ticking away...
Oh, Baby! premieres Tuesday, August 18th, 1998 on Lifetime.