TV

Marc D. Allan

lays of celebrity worship, it'd be hard to top David Letterman's performance as he genuflected at the hem of Oprah Winfrey's flowing gown. Our man Dave, who used to relentlessly mock the rich and famous but gave that up years ago in his quest for ratings and better guests, is now only slightly better than the parade of suck-up interviewers seen on Access Hollywood and shows of that ilk.

But thankfully, here comes a show that gets its jollies - and gives us ours - by skewering the pompous pronouncements of the self-important. It's called Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words, and it premieres Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

The premise of this one-hour special is both simple and devastatingly funny: Comics and actors get on stage and recite verbatim passages from celebrities' unintentionally hilarious autobiographies. Among the highlights: Jay Mohr reads David Cassidy's tortured musings about whether he should bed his TV sister, Susan Dey. ("Do I really want to f*** my sister?") Fred Willard, Cheryl Hines and Andrea Martin cut up Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson and Elaine Hall (who wrote her book about working for Reynolds) by retelling the same passage from all three points of view. And perhaps best of all, Eugene Pack, who co-created this show, and Jack Plotnick share the "insights" of Sylvester Stallone and Tommy Lee, respectively.

Taking the air out of these authors' bloated prose doesn't require much more than a raised eyebrow or a sly wink. I mean, Joan Lunden (read by Laraine Newman) writes about how she lays out her clothes for the next day. ("Panties on top, then bra, skirt or pants, some kind of casual shirt or sweater, socks and shoes.") As if anyone would care. Stallone's autobiography actually includes a list of what was in his refrigerator and freezer at the time. Imagine thinking you're so important that people would want to know something that trivial.

You'd think celebrities would realize how their work comes across, but no. Celebrity Autobiography ends with Pack giving a wildly dramatic reading from George Takei's book - with the Star Trek star in the audience. Takei is either an incredibly good sport or blissfully unaware that he's being made fun of. Or, most likely, he's just happy for the attention.

It all brings to mind something Mr. Lippman, Elaine's boss on Seinfeld, once wondered: "Why is it every half-wit and sitcom star has their own book?" Now we have an answer: So we can laugh at them. Having lost Letterman to the dark side, we need shows like this more than ever.

Also worth noting

Coming for the holidays: The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Extravaganza (Dec. 16, 11:30 p.m., WFYI Channel 20), featuring Setzer and a 17-piece rhythm and horn orchestra playing holiday favorites.

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