'Mad About You' reunites Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as empty nesters

Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt reunite as empty nesters, in a disposable revival for Spectrum

With so much else getting rebooted and revived, a "Mad About You" reunion series is hardly shocking. What's perhaps most surprising is seeing the one-time NBC hit relegated to an out-of-the-way spot on Spectrum, the cable distributor, where this amiable but disposable vanity project is likely to garner more media attention (hence this review) than viewers.

The vanity part isn't used lightly, since stars Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt not only share executive producer credit on the new series -- being billed as a limited event -- but he wrote the premiere and she directed it.

Yes, 20 years have passed, and the Buchmans are saying goodbye to their daughter Mabel (Abby Quinn), who is off the college, if only moving a few blocks away by enrolling at NYU. Still, it's a big moment, and while Paul is willing to admit that he's flummoxed by it, his wife Jamie (Hunt) bottles it all up, until of course she doesn't.

According to Paul, the two regularly referenced Tahiti when Mabel was young, a kind of code word for the idea that eventually they'd be carefree, footloose and able to go cavort on the beach. Yet the vagaries of being empty nesters hit them hard, along with the usual indignities associated with aging, from her hot flashes and diminished interest in sex to his frequent bathroom trips.

When Paul seeks to reassure his wife that he loves her as she pines for Mabel, she responds tartly, "Whatever."

It's kind of fun seeing Reiser and Hunt slip back into these characters -- along with the show's supporting players, among them Richard Kind, John Pankow, Anne Ramsey and Jerry Adler -- but as is so often true with these exercises, the kick/novelty pretty quickly wears off.

What's left, after that, is basically an old-fashioned network sitcom (complete with the enthusiastic laughter of a studio audience) about getting older, only in a newfangled quadrant of the original-programming space. Spectrum is hardly chopped liver -- reaching 29 million homes, behind only Comcast and AT&T among pay-TV distributors, and roughly the same as the streaming service Hulu -- but it's not exactly a go-to destination yet for such fare.

More than anything, "Mad About You's" return (six episodes drop now, and another half-dozen in December) highlights the near-unquenchable demand for anything that can knife through the clutter, bringing publicity and added value for subscribers along with it.

In that sense, the new "Mad About You" is a show for our times, even if, other than a few gray hairs, almost nothing about it has changed at all.

"Mad About You" premieres Nov. 20 on Spectrum Originals.

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