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Brett touched on TV in A Comedian Dies, but here he knowledgeably puts actor-sleuth Charles Paris smack dab in the middle of the telly at its tattiest: the making of crude formula sit-coms--like The Strutters, in which beggars-can't be-choosers Charles has a small, recurring role. This new spin-off series, however, is ill-fated from the start: first the obnoxious Production Assistant falls (?) off a fire escape; then the pretentious director dies in an accident (?) with his Porsche; then the laugh-counting hack writer is hit-and-run to death. Coincidence? Hardly, thinks Charles. And he sizes up the prime suspects: insecure TV-star Bernard Walton, who may be sabotaging The Strutters to keep his own series (source of the spin-off) alive; aged, legendary star Aurelia, whose passion for her pooch may have driven her to vengeance; Aurelia's dotty, doting hubby; and Charles' shady lawyer pal. The actual explanation, however, is quiet foolishly, if endearingly, bizarre--making this perhaps the cartooniest of the Brett mysteries. And the running jokes are a bit belabored, while some of the biggest laughs--e.g., a reference to London's Time Out magazine--require a high level of Anglo-savvy. Still, the idiocies of sit-commery are basically universal; and they're lampooned here with enough authenticity and panache to make this breezy, snide fun for the deservedly large Charles Paris following.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Scribners