A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Fran Drescher is a taste I have not acquired, but I concede that one could acquire it. It would help if she made a silent film. Her speaking voice is like having ear wax removed with a small dental drill. And yet, doggone it, there's something lovable about her. I picture her making the coffee at Stuart Smalley's AA meetings, or doing the ringside announcements for pro wrestling.
You have seen her on "The Nanny'' and on countless talk shows. Most talk show guests say something and then laugh, so you know it's supposed to be funny. She laughs, and then says something, so you know it was supposed to be a laugh and not a respiratory emergency. Not every role would be suitable for her. I cannot visualize her, for example, in "The English Patient," saying, "Promise you'll come back for me.'' Or as Sheriff Marge Gunderson in "Fargo," asking, "So, I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper?'' "The Beautician and the Beast'' contains a role that seems to have been whipped up out of two parts of Drescher's public persona and one part of nothing else. She plays Joy Miller, who teaches beauty secrets in a Queens night school. After a smoking mishap leads to a wig fire and the school burns down, she is hailed on the front pages as a heroine (for saving the lab rats) and approached by a representative of the obscure Eastern European nation of Slovetzia.
That nation has recently emerged from communism into a dictatorship controlled by Boris Pochenko (Timothy Dalton), a despot who wants to soften his image and thinks maybe importing an American tutor for his children might help. (Pochenko is also the name of the European exile who is killed at the beginning of "Shadow Conspiracy," but I cannot think of anything to say about this coincidence, other than that they are both named after a popular Japanese pinball game.) Dalton plays the role as if he had somehow found himself the villain in a James Bond film instead of the hero.
Slovetzia is not an advanced nation. There are sheep on the runway of the national airport. Pochenko lives in a castle possibly mortgaged from Young Frankenstein. Joy makes a bad first impression, when she is late for her official welcoming ceremony because she hasn't finished her hair and nails.