Sunday, September 14, 2003

Returnees could face on-air turbulence

Fall television

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Kyla Pratt, left, and Sicily return in One on One on UPN.
Huge questions loom over some of the biggest returning TV series this fall. Here are 10 to watch:

The Practice (ABC): Will anyone care? Half the cast - including Dylan McDermott, Lara Flynn Boyle, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Kelli Williams - was fired in May. James Spader joins the Boston firm as Alan Shore, an attorney who doesn't share Bobby Donnell's (McDermott) compassion or ethics. Sounds like a repeat of how L.A. Law collapsed. (Returns 10 p.m. Sept. 28).

Friends (NBC): Will Friends fans remain loyal through a long, drawn-out last season? Only 17 new episodes (instead of 24) will air during the 34-week TV season. The May finale sets up Matt LeBlanc's Joey spin-off. (Returns 8 p.m. Sept. 25).

The West Wing (NBC): How can you replace Aaron Sorkin? The Emmy-winning creator and executive producer quit last spring, leaving John Wells (ER, Third Watch) in charge. How will the Bartlet administration tone, tempo, politics and conversations change under a new chief executive - other than by adding Gary Cole (The Brady Bunch Movie, Family Affair) as the new Veep? (Returns 9 p.m. Sept. 24).

TV critics weren't overly impressed with last fall's season either - yet more than a dozen of the 35 series that premiered a year ago have been renewed for a second year. They are:

American Dreams (NBC)
Boomtown (NBC)
CSI: Miami (CBS)
Good Morning, Miami (NBC)
Everwood (WB)
Hack (CBS)
Less than Perfect (ABC)
Life with Bonnie (ABC)
One on One (UPN)
Still Standing (CBS)
What I Like About You (WB)
Without A Trace (WB)
8 Simples Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (ABC)

NYPD Blue (ABC): Could Law & Order: SVU deliver a fatal blow to Andy Sipowicz and the aging 15th Precinct detectives? In one of fall's biggest gambles, NBC moves SVU from Friday to Tuesday against the 11th season of NYPD Blue. (Returns 10 p.m. Sept. 23).

The King of Queens (CBS): Will fans follow Kevin James' popular working-class comedy from Monday to 9 p.m. Wednesday? Or will the King be trumped by The Bachelor and The West Wing? (Returns 9 p.m. Oct. 1).

Angel (WB): On a positive note, how much fun will fans have watching the infusion of characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer this fall? Spike (James Marsters) and Harmony (Mercedes McNab) will be regulars on Angel, spun off from Buffy four years ago. And even Buffy herself (Sarah Michelle Gellar) could appear for February or May sweeps. (Returns 9 p.m. Oct. 1).

Boston Public (Fox): How far will attendance drop on Fridays for Boston Public? Monday, at the start of the school week, was the perfect night for the high school series. Who wants to watch the heavy classroom drama after the weekend starts? Especially when you could watch JAG on its new night? Or the TGIF lineup on ABC. (Returns 9 p.m. Friday).

TGIF (ABC): Can ABC re-invent the magic of TGIF? Will the George Lopez Show, Bonnie Hunt's Life with Bonnie and the Kelly Ripa-Faith Ford Hope & Faith sitcom bring back the Friday family audience that watched ABC's Family Matters, Step by Step and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper? Or have they moved on to Nickelodeon's The Fairly Odd Parents and WB's Reba and Grounded for Life? (Launches 8 p.m. Sept. 26).

Wonderful World of Disney (ABC): Will Disney movies bring families back to the TV on Saturday? Moving The Wonderful World of Disney from Sunday to the night with the fewest TV viewers seems like a recipe for disaster. And pairing Disney (8-10 p.m.) with L.A. Dragnet (10 p.m.) is just bizarre. (Returns 8 p.m. Sept. 28).

Joe Millionaire 2 (Fox): How can Fox pull it off again? Under what rock did Fox find folks who hadn't heard of Joe Millionaire, TV's No. 1 series last year? (Returns 8 p.m., Oct. 20).


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