Well, Michael J. Frog is finally here. The animated mascot of the WB Network slipped into town Wednesday on Channel 49, which had been carrying religious programming since the Buffalo Sabres dropped the idea that the area could support another commercial station.
Since the new WB Network has been around for almost two years and its new season started in late August, Channel 49's owners are scrambling to get viewers familiar with its programs.
Responding to holes in the schedules of the Big Three networks' programs, five of the WB's shows have African-Americans in lead roles and it has its own version of the family hour at 8 p.m.
At 9 p.m. on its three nights of programming, Frog reportedly declares the end of the family hour by pulling down a shade and saying: "Love those family shows, now send the littles ones to bed, these next few shows are only for adults and teens instead."
WB only programs seven hours, leaving plenty of room to experiment this week. There also is considerable prime time room for first-run syndicated programs like "Baywatch," "Hercules" and "Xena" to fill Channel 49's schedule.
At 8 tonight, Channel 49 introduces four of the WB's six Sunday shows by carrying the August season premieres. At 8 p.m. Friday, it carries all four of the August premieres of its Wednesday shows. At 8 p.m. Saturday, it carries last season's two-hour series premiere of the soap opera "Savannah." At noon Sunday -- a non-Bills afternoon -- it plans a 6-hour "Savannah"- thon of this season's episodes.
Generally, the WB shows are geared to the younger and urban viewers that Fox has coveted for years. WB also has been a dumping ground for network rejects.
Now let's look at the 12 programs on the WB Network schedule, half of which I have seen. First, here's Sunday's shows in order of their appearance:
"Kirk," 8 tonight: The local relatives of Kirk Cameron ("Growing Pains") and his Cheektowaga bride Chelsea Noble finally get to see the series in its second season. Kirk plays an aspiring artist in New York who married his dream girl, Elizabeth (Noble), a medical student, in this season's premiere. They are raising Kirk's three younger siblings -- ages 15, 13 and 7. Unrated: (I've never seen it).
"Brotherly Love" (not airing tonight): The Lawrence family sit-com -- Joey, Matthew and Andrew -- was picked up after it failed on NBC. Joey ("Blossom") plays a 20-year-old motorcycle racer who becomes a model for his two half-brothers (who are played by his real-life brothers). Only a relative of the Lawrences could have endured more than one cliched episode of the NBC version. 2 1/2 stars out of 5
"The Parent 'Hood," 8:30 tonight: Robert Townsend stars in a family-friendly sitcom. Townsend plays a college professor. His wife, Jeri (Suzzanne Douglas) is a law student hoping to become a children's advocate attorney. They are raising four kids, ranging from 5 to 17. Unrated: (I haven't seen it).
"The Steve Harvey Show," 9 tonight: Stand-up Harvey's ABC sit-com, "Me and the Boys," was surprisingly canceled a few years back despite strong ratings. He's back playing the former leader of a hit R & B group who teaches music at an inner-city high school. Based on a 13-minute presentation tape, this show plays a familiar tune without much inspiration. Rating: 2 1/2 stars
"Unhappily Ever After," 9:30 tonight: A dysfunctional family comedy from the creators of "Married . . . With Children." It stars Stephanie Hodge ("Nurses") and Geoff Pierson ("Grace Under Fire") as a reconciled couple with three children. Dad sleeps in the basement and gets advice from a stuffed rabbit named Mr. Floppy. Unrated: (I haven't seen it, though I feel like I have just by writing my summary).
"Life with Roger," (not airing tonight): Odd couple comedy in which a spirited homeless man, Roger (Michael O'Malley), first saves a milquetoast, Jason (Maurice Godin), from a mugger on his wedding day and then saves him from a life of abuse from his would-be bride. The pilot had some laughs and some charm but it isn't a wonderful Life. Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Now let's look at Wednesday's shows:
"Sister, Sister," 8 p.m. Friday: First carried in 1994 by ABC, "Sister, Sister" is now entering its fourth season following real-life identical twins, Tia and Tamera Mowry. Jackie Harry and Tim Reid co-star. Rating: I gave it 3 stars in 1994. If my memory serves me, the twins have charm but they may be getting a little too old to be cute.
"Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher" 8:30 p.m. Friday: Weakest of the season's teacher shows, it stars bland Mitch Mullany as a would-be actor trying to earn a few extra bucks as a hip substitute to a class of sixth-graders. Mullany's co-star, Charles Cyphers, is a native of Niagara Falls. He plays a jaded senior staffer. The short-haired Freno is in a show that makes NBC's long-haired "Mr. Rhodes" look like it was written by Rhodes Scholars. Rating: 2 stars
"The Wayan Bros." 9 p.m. Friday: Real-life brothers Shawn and Marlon are back running a news stand. Shawn is the responsible one, Marlon is the carefree one. Unrated: (I haven't see it but it has to be better than the Lawrence Brothers sitcom.
"The Jamie Foxx Show," 9:30 p.m. Friday: Foxx plays an aspiring entertainer who works at his aunt's hotel and flirts with the beautiful desk clerk while waiting for his big break. Foxx, who was a regular on "In Living Color," has considerable charm and range and Garvcelle Beauvais is a beautiful, feisty love interest. The pilot introduces a number of characters with potential, which helps explain why this show is the WB's highest-rated. Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Now let's move on to Monday's dramas:
"7th Heaven," 8 p.m. Stephen Collins is a reverend who tries to fix lives and Catherine Hicks is his wife, who fixes sinks. She's also a mother of five children in this well-intentioned, syrupy series about parents who try to be sensitive to their kids needs and egos. It's the kind of decent show that a network like WB should carry even if its ratings are less than heavenly. And last week, it was the lowest-rated show on any network. Rating: 3 1/2 stars.
"Savannah," 9 p.m. Despite ratings going south, this Aaron Spelling series actually made the cover of TV Guide recently. It is about "three close-knit, beautiful, contemporary Southern belles whose bonds have been tested by adultery, fraud, conspiracy and even murder." It came into this market last season on Canadian TV. Unrated: (Haven't seen it even though it sounds like 10 other Spelling series.)