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Dad-daughter duo gives sitcom charm

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The Cavanaughs CBS, Mondays starting Dec. 1, 9:30-10 p.m. Stars: Barnard Hughes and Christine Ebersole. Producer: Mandy Films, Inc., and Paramount Network TV. If you've been yearning for the offbeat down-to-earthiness of Archie and Edith Bunker on television, there's a new lovable, unlikely pair coming your way on CBS.

The unpredictability of human chemistry has resulted in what may be the most unexpectedly delightful couple in TV sitcom-dom since Edith and Archie set up housekeeping in Queens.

``The Cavanaughs,'' a late-season entry, stars Barnard Hughes as a crotchety Irish Dad and Christine Ebersole as his free-spirited daughter who rejoins the working-class family in their Boston home after 20 years on the road as a showgirl.

Miss Ebersole manages to bring just the right combination of zip, pizazz, and sensitivity to her role of an actress whose showbiz peak was a part in ``Beach Blanket Bingo.'' She projects grit, vulnerability, and low-down humor like a young Elaine Stritch.

Mr. Hughes is charmingly irrascible. He comes across as everybody's fantasy of a stern yet lovable gramps. And, dare I say it, he seems irresistibly cuddly, too.

Otherwise, there's nothing much more to ``The Cavenaughs.'' It offers no unique premise, no tricky story line, no high-concept gimmick. All it has is a few likable, empathetic people with unobtrusive lines to say - lines written by writers who recognized the virtue in getting out of the way of lovable and loving characters.

``The Cavanaughs'' won't thrill you. But it'll give you a few warm tingles.


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