Max is aging into a mellow restrained unforced humor, as if going serious on us. Gone are the anthropoid antics of barefoot boy and Dobie Gillis. In his new work there's a little something for everyone to laugh at: television cowboys and execs, the cigarette industry, food and liquor habits, Southerners, Southern colleges, and so on. To recap the plot is an empty gesture, but...Tatum Cigarette sales are down 3% because of the Surgeon General's cancer reports. Jeff Tatum, an irascible septuagenarian who's still libidinous, built his cigarette empire from the ground up and thinks it's cracking. Even worse, he's disappointed in his 43-year-old son, Virgil, who'd rather run his unaccredited college than sell weeds. Then Jeff and Virgil decide to attack the Surgeon General and the FDA by transforming their Acanthus College into a new Harvard of medical research that will prove by tests that Food Kills--the theory being that national nervousness will lead to mass chain smoking. Old Jeff's shenanigans are foiled by an honest TV director. The jokes on Silent Spring and academic life are decently intelligent, although Shulman, even in this subdued mood, does not have the acerb bite which would give his book much more staying power than the situation comedy it is.