Sunday, October 1, 2000

Fall 2000 TV schedule preview

That's Life

        Here are TV Critic John Kiesewetter's previews of the 30 new fall shows in order of their premieres.

        What: CBS drama about a thirtysomething New Jersey bartender (Heather Paige Kent) who dumps her boyfriend (Sonny Marinelli) and enrolls in college, much to the dismay of her Italian parents (Ellen Burstyn, Paul Sorvino) and best friends (Debi Mazar, Kristin Bauer).
       When: 8 p.m. today (Channels 12, 7). Moves to 8 p.m. Saturday. Why it works: Likable Lydia (Ms. Kent from Stark Raving Mad, Jenny) and her pals, a hairstylist (Ms. Mazar) and the former 1988 Miss New Jersey (Ms. Bauer), look like blue-collar Jersey folks we would meet on The Sopranos. Female viewers may empathize with her struggle or independence.
       Why it fails: Rhea Perlman's smartly written back-to-school premise didn't last six weeks in 1996, and she wasn't exiled on Saturday night.

Yes, Dear

               What: First-time parents (Anthony Clark, Jean Louisa Kelly) try to be perfect parents and ignore the casual parenting advice of her sister (Liza Snyder) and unemployed brother-in-law (Mike O'Malley).
       When: 8:30 p.m. Monday (Channels 12, 7) Why it fails: The worst sitcom in a season of exceptionally weak comedies. Could be the first show canceled, which is nothing new to Mr. O'Malley, whose Mike O'Malley lasted only two weeks a year ago.
       Why it works: It's beyond comprehension.



               What: NBC's Malcolm in the Middle comedy rip-off about 14-year-old Tucker Pierce (Eli Marienthal, American Pie) who moves with his divorced mother (Noelle Beck) in with her sister (Katey Sagal, Married... with Children) and brother-in-law (Casey Sander, Grace Under Fire).
8:30 p.m. Monday (Channels 5, 22) Why it works: Because it's opposite CBS' Yes, Dear.
       Why it fails:
While Fox's charming Malcolm seems so real, every pore of Tucker oozes with made-for-TV fabrications — like Aunt Claire's obsession with her cleavage and her son's human hair collection.


               What: NBC's drama about a crusading New York newspaper columnist Wallace Benton (Oliver Platt, Bulworth), who solves crimes with the help of university graduate students.
9 p.m. Monday (Channels 5, 22) Why it fails: Newspaper readers know that real reporters would not lie, cheat and trick people into giving up information as flamboyant Benton does. Premiere about Benton having second thoughts over a man on death row because of his prize-winning columns is laughable. Cancel my subscription!
       Why it works: Emmy-winner Dick Wolf (Law & Order) has a knack for refining shows, and he'll fix this one — or at least give Bebe Neuwirth something to do as the newspaper editor.


               What: UPN's Sex and the City-style sitcom about four sex-obsessed African-American women (Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White and Jill Marie Jones) produced by Mara Brock Akil, Kelsey Grammer and Tristate natives Mark Alton Brown and Dee LaDuke.
       When: 9:30 p.m. Monday (Channel 25). Premiered Sept. 11.
       Why it works:
Fits nicely with UPN's Monday night urban comedies, Moesha, The Parkers and The Hughleys.
       Why it fails:
Remove the sex jokes, and these Girlfriends have nothing to talk about.

Dark Angel

               What: James Cameron's (Titanic) Fox drama about a genetically enhanced woman (Jessica Alba) on the run from the military team that gave her super-human powers.
       When: 9 p.m. Tuesday (Channels 19, 45) Why it works: Mr. Cameron has spent a year developing this futuristic drama set in the Pacific Northwest.
       Why it fails:
Good-vs.-evil sci-fi thrillers haven't worked in years.



               What: Aaron Spelling's lavish NBC soap about a mysterious sexy woman (Yasmine Bleeth, Baywatch) who disrupts a wealthy Beverly Hills family by marrying the divorced industrialist (Perry King, Melrose Place), much to the suspicion of his children (Casper Van Dien, John Barrowman, Josie Davis, Elizabeth Bogush) and his ex-wife (Victoria Principal, Dallas).
8 p.m. Wednesday (Channels 5, 22)
       Why it works:
For the same reasons that America loved Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest and other trashy soaps.
       Why it fails:
The trite dialogue made TV critics laugh out loud at a screening during the July press tour.

Gilmore Girls

               What: WB's excellent new drama about a single mother (Lauren Graham, M.Y.O.B.) who borrows money from her rich parents (Kelly Bishop, Dirty Dancing; Edward Herrmann, The Practice) to send her teen-age daughter (newcomer Alexis Bledel) to boarding school. It's the first show produced through the Family Friendly Programming Forum co-founded by Procter & Gamble executive Bob Wehling.
8 p.m. Thursday (Channel 64) Why it works: Like WB's 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls is a delightful show about contemporary family dynamics that the entire family can watch.
       Why it fails:
Gets smacked down in ratings by Friends, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and the WWF.

The Fugitive

               What: Tim Daly (Wings) stars in CBS' remake of the 1960s David Janssen series as Dr. Richard Kimble, the doctor wrongly accused of murdering his wife. He chases his wife's one-armed assailant across America, while fleeing Lt. Philip Gerard (Mykelti Williamson).
8 p.m. Friday (Channels 12, 7) Why it works: Fans of the 1993 Harrison Ford film will be so impressed with CBS' $5 million pilot that The Fugitive becomes what Miami Vice was on Fridays in the 1980s.
       Why it fails:
CBS can't spend $5 million each week.


Grosse Point

               What: Darren Star's (Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place) promising WB satire of 90210 and other teen dramas. Kohl Sudduth (Sex and the City), Irene Molloy, Bonnie Somerville, Kyle Howard, Al Santos and Lindsay Sloane play stars of the fictional hit TV show, Grosse Point.
8:30 p.m. Friday (Channel 64). Premiered Sept. 22.
       Why it works: Those who loved 90210, or hated its absurdities, will howl at thisdead-on spoof.
       Why it fails: If it gets too inside Hollywood, Grosse Pointe could be canceled quicker than last year's Action.

The Trouble with Normal

               What: ABC's comedy about four paranoid guys (David Krumholtz, The Santa Clause; Jon Cryer, Partners; Larry Joe Campbell; Brad Raider) and their therapist (Paget Brewster, Love and Money).
8:30 p.m. Friday (Channels 9, 2) Why it works:Mr. Cryer has been overdue for a hit since The Famous Teddy Z 10 years ago.
       Why it fails: Not the worst new sitcom, but definitely the worst new show title.


               What: CBS' drama about Las Vegas crime scene investigators (C.S.I.), or forensics experts, starring William Petersen (To Live and Die in L.A.) and Marg Helgenberger (Erin Brockovich, China Beach).
       When: 9 p.m. Friday (Channels 12, 7) Why it works: Rides the coattails of CBS' The Fugitive.
       Why it fails:
Scripts do not improve over the predictable, implausible pilot.



               What: Fox drama from the creator of The Blair Witch Project about a group of Florida residents (Ethan Embry, That Thing You Do; Lisa Sheridan; Karim Prince, 413 Hope Street) who use the Internet to solve mysteries.
9 p.m. Friday (Channels 19, 45) Why it works: The creative team, veterans from Quantum Leap, Blade, and Blair Witch know how to do sci-fi.
       Why it fails: Fox hasn't had a sci-fi hit since The X-Files moved from Fridays.

Madigan Men

               What: ABC's comedy about the dating woes of three generations of Irish men (Gabriel Byrne, End of Days; John Hensley, The Sopranos; Roy Dotrice, Beauty and the Beast.)
       When: 9:30 p.m. Friday (Channels 9, 2) Why it works: Only show starting at 9:30 p.m. Friday after ABC's popular Norm.
       Why it fails: Mr. Byrne's talent wasted in a hokey premise.

The District

               What: CBS drama about the tough new Washington, D.C., police chief (Craig T. Nelson, Coach) and his computer-based crime-fighting strategy inspired by the life of former New York Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Maple.
       When: 10 p.m. Saturday (Channels 12, 7) Why it works: Mr. Nelson heads a strong diverse cast (John Amos, Lynne Thigpen, Jayne Brook, Roger Aaron Brown).
       Why it fails: Few people are watching TV at 10 p.m. Saturday.


               What: NBC's lighthearted drama about a “bowling alley attorney” (Tom Cavanagh, Providence) who leaves New York and returns home to Stuckeyville, Ohio, to open a law practice inside an old bowling alley. Produced by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Inc.
8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8 (Channels 5, 22)
       Why it works: A charming Northern Exposure drama about a small town filled with eccentric characters.
       Why it fails: A drama of similar tone, Freaks & Geeks, died quickly on NBC last year, and it didn't have to compete with The Simpsons.



               What:WB's prime-time sketch show from the creators of Fox's MAD TV.
9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8 (Channel 64)
       Why it fails:No sketch show has survived in prime-time since In Living Color was canceled six years ago.
       Why it works:
I don't have a clue.



               What: Nikki Cox's (Norm, Unhappily Ever After) WB sitcom about a Las Vegas show girl married to a pro wrestler (Nick von Esmarch).
9:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8 (Channel 64)
       Why it works: The hilarious Las Vegas casino musical production numbers, staged under the watchful eye of Bruce Helford (Drew Carey Show, Roseanne), are truly “Must See TV.”
       Why it fails: WB doesn't move it to 9 p.m. Sunday, or a better time slot.


The Geena Davis Show

               What: Oscar-winner Geena Davis (Stuart Little, Buffalo Bill) returns to TV as a career woman adjusting to an instant family (kids ages 6 and 13) when she marries a writer (Peter Horton, thirtysomething).
       When: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 (Channels 9, 2)
       Why it fails:
The career woman as mother fish-out-of-water element will get old quickly. And Ms. Davis' Sex and the City-style work friends don't mesh with the domestic comedy.
       Why it works: Fans of Ms. Davis and Mr. Horton may watch anyway, despite awful scripts.


Gideon's Crossing

               What: Emmy-winner Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) stars in ABC drama as chief of experimental medicine at a Boston hospital in a series based on The Measure of Our Days by Dr. Jerome Groopman. TV's most racially diverse cast includes Ruben Blades, Eric Dane, Russell Hornsby, Ravi Kapoor, Hamish Linklater and Rhona Mitra.

        When: 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 (Channels 9, 2); moves to 10 p.m. Wednesday on Oct. 18.
       Why it works: Viewers love Mr. Braugher's commanding presence.
       Why it fails:
Dark scripts by former Homicide producer Paul Attanasio may, like Homicide, never draw huge ratings.



               What: Bette Midler plays herself on CBS in her first sitcom. Her TV family includes her professor husband (Kevin Dunn, Nixon), a teen-age daughter (Marina Malota), best friend (Joanna Gleason, Love & War) and her musical accompanist (James Dreyfus, Notting Hill).
8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 (Channels 12, 7)
       Why it works:
The Divine Miss M's strikes the right chord: self-deprecating humor (being accused of quoting her movies); her “feud” with actress Sally Field; and her hilarious rendition of Kid Rock's “Bawitaba,” which she turns into a boogie-woogie tune.
       Why it fails:
Cosby and other CBS comedies have bombed on Wednesdays, without having to air opposite Who Wants to be a Millionaire.


Welcome to New York

               What:CBS' Murphy Brown-style newsroom comedy about an Indiana weatherman (Jim Gaffigan) joining a network morning show hosted by a Bryant Gumbel-type jerk (Cincinnati's Rocky Carroll) and produced by an insecure woman (Christine Baranski, Cybill). Produced by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Inc.
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 (Channels 12, 7)
       Why it works:
Viewers can relate to this sane Bob Newhart-like character (Mr. Gaffigan) trying to survive Manhattan craziness.
       Why it fails: If it can't decide whether it's an ensemble office comedy or a star vehicle for Ms. Baranski.


Boston Public

               What: David E. Kelley's (The Practice, Ally McBeal) Fox drama about an inner-city Boston high school under the leadership of Principal Steve Harper (Chi McBride, John Larroquette Show). His staff includes the nerdy disciplinarian (Anthony Heald, The Practice), old-school history teacher (Fyvush Finkel, Picket Fences), young idealistic educators (Jessalyn Gilsig, Joey Slotnick, Nicky Katt, Sharon Leal) and a burned-out special education instructor (Loretta Devine).
8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23 (Channels 19, 45)
       Why it works: Think of The Practice meets a high school, a shadowy drama about dedicated but flawed humans trying to do the right thing.
       Why it fails: Mr. Kelley can't crank out every script, and the show languishes ala Ally McBeal.

The Michael Richards Show

               What: Former Seinfeld sidekick Michael Richards stars in his own NBC sitcom as bumbling private detective Vic Nardozza. His co-workers include a sexual predator (Tim Meadows, Saturday Night Live), a veteran investigator eyeing retirement (Bill Cobb, The Others), a recent college graduate (Amy Farrington) and a laid-back supervisor (William Devane, Knots Landing).
8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 (Channels 5, 22)
       Why it works:
Former Seinfeld writers producing the show, who scrapped their original pilot in June, figure out how to use the talents of Mr. Meadows, Mr. Cobb and Mr. Devane. But don't count on it.
       Why it fails:
Mr. Richards' “Kramer”-style antics aren't enough to carry a show.



               What: NBC comedy about an advertising executive (Steven Weber, Wings) whose life is cursed by a blind date.
8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 (Channels 5, 22)
       Why it fails:
Maybe this makes a Saturday Night Live sketch, but 22 half-hour episodes in a season? No way. (Maybe that's why NBC replaced the executive producer last month.)
       Why it works: New producer rescues premise, and gives co-stars Chris Elliott and Amy Pietz (Caroline in the City) something to do.


               What: Joel Silver's (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Matrix) futuristic UPN action drama about four martial-arts freedom fighters (Darius McCrary from Family Matters; Holtd McCallany; Scarlett Chorvat; Bodhi Elfman) after a military coup in America.
       When: 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 (Channel 25)
       Why it fails: This one dies hard because action-adventure fans will be watching The Fugitive on CBS.
       Why it works: Only because some of that Matrix magic rubs off on tiny UPN.

Level 9

               What: Another UPN drama about an elite team of experts, a top-secret government force fighting cyber-crime. John Sacret Young (China Beach) created the Level 9 team starring Fabrizio Filippo, Kate Hodge, Michael Kelly, Max Martini, Kim Murphy and Esteban Powell.
9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 (Channel 25)
       Why it works:
Has a slightly better chance against C.S.I. at 9 p.m. than Freedom does at 8 p.m.
       Why it fails: Friday night thrillers have not fared well since The X-Files. (See FreakyLinks).


               What: NBC's most promising comedy, the Odd Couple pairing of David Alan Grier (In Living Color) and Delta Burke (Designing Women). He's a Secret Service agent; she's the First Lady.
9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31 (Channels 5, 22)
       Why it works:
Mr. Grier, after bouncing through a couple of sitcom duds (The Preston Episodes, Damon), seems well suited for a Secret Service agent. And, of course, the former beauty queen makes a perfect First Lady.
       Why it fails:
Producers focus too much on the other goofy Secret Service agents, and refuse to bring back wacky David Rasche (Sledge Hammer!) as the president.


Normal, Ohio,

               What: John Goodman's (Roseanne) Fox sitcom about a gay, divorced contractor who returns to his suburban Cincinnati hometown to live with his sister (Joely Fisher) and her family, and rebuild his relationship with his son (Greg Pitts) and parents (Anita Gillette, Orson Bean).
       When: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 (Channels 19, 45)
       Why it fails: Carsey-Werner producers (3rd Rock from the Sun, Roseanne, That '70s Show) have revamped the premise, scrapped the pilot, recast the show and changed the title. Not a good sign.
       Why it works:It's tough to bet against the sitcom experts at Carsey-Werner.

The $treet

               What: Fox drama about a Wall Street brokerage house starring Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do), Jennifer Connelly(The Rocketeer), Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan), Sean Maher (Party of Five) and Giancarlo Esposito (Mo' Better Blues).
       When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 (Channels 19, 45)
       Why it works:
Turning Wall Street into Melrose Place clicks with young viewers used to watching Beverly Hills 90210 in this time slot.
       Why it fails:
This gets hammered in the ratings by The West Wing, Drew Carey Show, Felicity and Star Trek: Voyager.


Mandatory 10-digit 'Dial the Code' starts today
Kentucky DUI gets tougher today
SAMPLES: Tip for tipplers: Don't drive
UC fundsraisers pass $300M goal
CPS chief may get 3 more years
Lawyers protest drug court assigning
Schools seek parents' involvement
PULFER: What will boomers buy next?
WELLS: Clearing history's view of Cincinnati and the Civil War
WILKINSON: When money talks, speech isn't free
BRONSON: Say a prayer for the ACLU
CROWLEY: Two can play this game
KIESEWETTER: Midwest turns trendy
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