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Baby Talk aired from March 1991 until July 1992 on ABC.
For more on Baby Talk go to the mini page right here at Sitcoms Online.
A Review from USA TODAY
TV PREVIEW/BY MATT ROUSH
'Baby Talk': Gibberish and a rash of bad humor
Baby Talk is about as welcome as a squalling infant in a movie theater or on a crowded plane. This one, of course, is much easier to shut up.
You'd be better off keeping the TV on " mute" and making up your own dialogue for this stillborn rip-off of the one -joke Look Who's Talking-which could barely sustain a movie sequel, let alone a sitcom.
Besides, it's tantamount to child abuse to train a camera on a squirming baby and make it appear to be thinking feeble one-liners delivered moronically by Tony Danza.
Example from next week: A smarmy grown-up , who'll get urinated on before its all over , winks at baby Mickey and says " Ciao." Says Mickey: " No thanks, I already ate." A far cry from those ribald fresh-from-the-womb wisecracks that made the first talking at least momentarily palatable.
Taking potshots at this pablum hardly seems worth it, because baby talk is what ABC's tremendously successful Friday night is all about. Full House's Michelle. Family Matter's Urkel. Perfect Stranger's Balki.. Goo-goo. Gag-gag.
At least those shows, which make up what's considered a " baby-sitter night," have the benefit of warmth , occasional charisma and slapstick energy. Baby Talk, a much-troubled production is full of pregnant pauses, waiting for the baby to look appropriately cute.
As the single mom, Julia Duffy-a last minute replacement for Connie Sellecca-looks peaked. ( Ah Julia, we'll always have Newhart.) As her shaggy handyman, George Clooney looks peeved and pre-occupied. And indeed he bolted after five episodes.
Easy to understand. Baby Talk is purgatory in Pampers.
An Article from The New York Times
Critic's Notebook; For TV, Children Are Made To
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: March 21, 1991
Perceptions of children. Old once-upon-a-time style: trustingly open, impressionable, innocent. Today's television model: savvy, wisecracking, born to be a performer. Hey guys, the indefatigable hawkers of products and programs are insisting, there are no age limits out there on markets waiting for exploitation. As the tactics become more brazen, a good many of the results are increasingly dismaying.
A limit of sorts might be thought to have been reached a couple of years ago when, on the ground floor of one of New York's most prestigious toy stores, sales clerks could be found pushing a new perfume for children who were little more than toddlers. Why, one reasonably wondered, would any entrepreneur think it was necessary to disguise with chemical scent a child's natural odors, surely among the world's freshest and least offensive? For house pets, maybe, if you insist. But for children? Perfume, as the television ads keep assuring viewers, is almost exclusively associated with seduction fantasies. Who could tots possibly be trying to seduce?
A silly but unsettling answer can be found on Fridays in the new ABC series "Baby Talk," surely among the fouler new series of the year. It seems that the little ones really are trying to make out with other little ones. Rites of courtship begin in the cradle. We are stereotypes the moment we exit the womb. The pressures are on, and only the shrewd -- and telegenic -- will survive. Failing to get a television-commercial job, diapered Mickey moans, through the patented cute voice of Tony Danza ("Who's the Boss?"), "Nine months old, and already a failure." The laugh track howls, rather uneasily.
Ridiculous? Well, not entirely. In a world where youngsters are already taking intelligence and skill tests to qualify for some of the tonier nursery schools, nothing is impossible when it comes to tinkering with the fates of children. But instead of being concerned about the mounting pressures being foisted on the once relatively uncomplicated experience of childhood, pop culture endorses the escalation by using it as a tool to woo bigger audiences.
Cute tots are hardly a new phenomenon in show business. Child actors are an entrenched part of the performing scene. And with the baby boom of recent years, infants can be found all over the afternoon soaps terrain, usually looking confused and rather terrified as they are passed from one wary actor to another. The drawing power of children is undeniable. Just consider the number who pop up in ABC's highly rated "America's Funniest Videos" each Sunday. The youngsters trip, fall and stumble through assorted situations -- relentlessly videotaped by their families -- and some observers might wince at the potential for serious injury, but the studio audience invariably doubles over with laughter. Kids are adorable, evidently, especially when they cry.
The rigors of producing a weekly sitcom lead to other problems, not least child-labor laws that limit the time an infant or toddler can be kept on a set. The solution: hire twins, one of whom can step in for the other when needed. This is done on, among other shows, ABC's "Full House" (on Fridays) and, of course, "Baby Talk." Little Mickey is played by Paul and Ryan Jessup. His single mother, Maggie Campbell, is depicted only by Julia Duffy, formerly a pillar of comedy on "Newhart." There are other regular characters on the series, including a handsome working-class contractor (George Clooney) and a bizarre alcoholic named Fogarty (William Hickey), but the centerpiece of the concept is reserved almost entirely for mother and child.
Actually the series uses characters created by Amy Heckerling for the movie "Look Who's Talking," which surprised Hollywood by pulling in a great deal of money at the box office (Bruce Willis supplied the baby's voice). A sequel called "Look Who's Talking Too" quickly fizzled, which should have been a signal to stop trying to expand on a fluke. But television's normally astute Ed Weinberger ("Taxi") had already determined to develop Ms. Heckerling's characters for television.
In the press handouts, Mickey is described as precocious. On the show, he is little more than a sweet vehicle for conveying the trite humor of adults. In a preview episode, Mickey was taken to his pediatrician, only to meet a black girl his age in the outer office. Taking dead aim at a racial cliche, the little girl said -- in a woman's voice -- "Yo, Mickey, whassup?" Presumably, street talk is in the genes. Then while his mom made contact with a handsome real-estate lawyer, Mickey began focusing on the man's toddler daughter. Let ABC describe the situation: "Wise beyond his years, Mickey has fallen hard for Danielle and wants to see more of this great little chick." Ah, how quickly we can be assigned our role models on television. Incidentally, as the young lovers were parted, both children cried bitterly in unison, which prompts questions about how such remarkable on-cue responses from tots are elicited on studio sets.
In another episode, the one in which Mickey tried out for a commercials job, the child was thrown into the frantic world of high-powered commerce. One mother at the ad agency was already on the phone arranging franchise deals for her son, Rosco. Mickey: "Your Mom's some wheeler-dealer." Rosco (using the voice of Roscoe Lee Browne): "She's a killer and I love her for it." It's never too early, obviously, for instilling values. The show ended with Mickey intentionally urinating on Mom's latest and ridiculous suitor. "So sorry," said Mickey, "but that's the only way I know how to express my feelings." Not if Tony Danza's voice has anything to say about it.
Among the countless new products coming up to take advantage of a younger and younger consumer market is a series of music videos aimed at 2-to-5-year-olds. The project is headed by Shelley Duvall and has the best of intentions, including the exposure of children to classical music. But skeptics can only worry about still another product aimed at turning children into passive watchers of television monitors.
Childhood is, or at least should be, a time of joy. It can also, as the books of Maurice Sendak have so richly illustrated, hold its terrors. It demands breathing room, space in which children can confidently discover themselves and not be manipulated by the consumer-world machinations of grownups. Television has every reason in the world to think twice when it tinkers with something so truly precious.
An Article from The LA Times
ABC Gaga Over 'Baby Talk' Make-Over : Television: The network conducts a radical housecleaning after the show was voted worst of the season by TV critics.
The New Season. One in a series
September 10, 1991|DENNIS McDOUGAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER
Lassie survived three families and a forest ranger, Lou Grant moved from sitcom to the city room of the Los Angeles Tribune and Archie Bunker got his own place after he sent the Stivics packing to California and Edith bit the dust.
TV characters evolve, in other words--sometimes in major ways. But never in the annals of video had a couple of all-but-anonymous toddlers been the most prominent survivors of a series housecleaning.
That was before Paul and Ryan Jessup of Fountain Valley usurped Tony Danza's voice and goo-gooed their way into the demographically-sensitized hearts of ABC's creative executives. In the network's estimation, "Baby Talk" can do without Julia Duffy. And it can do without whiz-bang executive producer Ed. Weinberger ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Taxi").
It cannot do, however, without a talking baby.
So the Jessups are in and practically everyone else is out at "Baby Talk."
"The performance of the show on Friday night was pretty good last year," said Ted Harbert, ABC's executive vice president for prime-time entertainment. "What we know we have here is this wonderful concept for kids. What we needed was a new adult concept."
Or, as new co-executive co-producer Saul Turtletaub puts it: "It was about a talking baby with a single mom. Now it's about a single mom with a talking baby."
Gone are most of the producers, writers and cast who brought the show to the air last season, adapted from the box-office hit "Look Who's Talking." Aside from the Jessup twins (who still have the voice of Tony Danza mouthing their words) and self-described "baby wrangler" Dennis Gallegos, "Baby Talk's" sole surviving line producer, what debuts in the 9:30 p.m. slot on Sept. 20 has inherited nothing from its springtime incarnation.
Mary Page Keller is the new mom ("She's fun and very attractive," Harbert says in high-concept exec shorthand), Scott Baio is the new neighbor-who-kind-of-likes-her ("Kids remember him from 'Charles in Charge'; adults remember him from 'Happy Days,' " Harbert says); Polly Bergen plays Keller's irascible mother, and there are other supporting characters to coo and coddle her tow-headed youngster.
Yes, "youngster" in the singular because it takes two normal babies to portray one talking kid.
It is an article of faith in the film and television business--enforced by a state law restricting child actors to a four-hour workday--that twins, and sometimes triplets, play babies. "Baby Talk's" Gallegos, who began his showbiz career casting kids for commercials, has actually made a scientific study of the phenomenon.
According to Gallegos, about one in every 1,000 births produce identical twins, and the children who don't shriek, stare blankly or look at least as adorable as a pair of effervescent Cabbage Patch dolls have a future in TV. In one episode of "Baby Talk" last spring, the producers hired 17 sets of twins to populate a day-care center.
As the new folks on "Baby Talk," Baio and Keller will have to get used to the backstage one-upmanship of the Jessup twins. Not only do they have their names on a larger dressing room, staffed with a full-time nurse, but they also have a play area and an unlimited supply of His and Her Huggies (in the event they have guests on the set) thrown into their deal.
The twins also have that other Big Star perk, their very own trailer. The trailer is located inside Stage 12 at Sunset Gower studios, however, where the sitcom is shot. Inside is a child-proofed TV, tiny chairs, hypoallergenic plastic action toys and all the Gerbers they might want to consume and/or smear on the furniture.
In a poll of the nation's TV critics, "Baby Talk" was voted the worst new series of the season. ABC hopes the reception will be warmer this time out.
"We've now got the bases sort of covered," Harbert said. "We've got a show the TGIF audience can watch and enjoy. We will offer them a show that is much better than we offered before."
It does not seem to matter that Duffy (who now will be seen in CBS' "Designing Women") will simply be transformed into Keller in the first episode of the all-new "Baby Talk." Keller will even have Duffy's name on the show: Maggie. Like another famous Duffy who waltzed back into "Dallas" via a shower stall after having been dead for a year, Duffy's replacement will simply show up chatting with her little boy's pediatrician . . . no explanations or excuses.
To watch some clips of Baby talk go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxf2dIA58es
For an episode guide go to https://web.archive.org/web/20050207113707/http://www.fortunecity.com/lavendar/pulpfiction/99/babytalk.html
For some Baby Talk-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/baby-talk
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxf2dIA58es
� Date: Mon January 21, 2008 � Filesize: 22.7kb � Dimensions: 315 x 400 �
Keywords: Mary Page Keller Scott Baio (Links Updated 7/24/18)