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After a season of some noble ratings failures that included "Cupid" and "Fantasy Island," you can't blame ABC for its seeming lapse in programming taste.

In search of a new fall hit show, ABC officials apparently asked producers to write about their own childhood, young adult and adult romantic experiences.

During the television critics tour in July, creator after creator explained they were writing about something that they experienced in their lives.

In some cases, viewers may relate.

In most cases, viewers may wonder why some creators just didn't kept this nonsense to themselves.

In fairness to ABC, if I were putting on a quality program like "Sports Night" and watched it die a weekly death, I might lower my standards a bit, too.

ABC was fortunate that two of its spring comedies last season -- "It's Like, You Know" and "Norm" -- did decently enough to warrant renewals and reduce the number of new shows it needed this fall.

Unfortunately, those two shows have had summer slides, which puts their futures in the questionable "Sports Night" category and makes it more imperative that one of the new shows strikes and helps offset the loss of "Home Improvement."

Without further ado, let's take a capsule look at the six new series on ABC's schedule.

"Once and Again," 10 p.m. Tuesdays: The smartest and best written new adult show of the season, which isn't giving it as much praise as it deserves.

It's a stylishly-produced take on romance after divorce and all the baggage and insecurities that have to be overcome to pull it off successfully.

It stars Sela Ward, the beautiful 40something actress from "Sisters," and Billy Campbell, who has been in numerous failures since starring in the Disney flick, "The Rocketeer."

But the real stars are the creators and producers -- "thirty-something" partners Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz -- who have made a touching and bittersweet pilot full of believable teen-agers, telling scenes and beautiful small moments that should get viewers to root for the romance to flourish.

ABC is premiering it in the old "thirtysomething" slot, which it will have to give up after several weeks to make room for "NYPD Blue."

If it fails to connect immediately, ABC will once again give it a second launch as it did with "The Practice" and hope that quality will count for something.

"Oh Grow Up," 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays: A comedy about three male roommates in Brooklyn, one of whom has separated from his wife and announced that he is gay. His wife and he remain friends, though she constantly makes cracks about his sexuality and her inability to see his preference before it sent her to the wine bottle. Or is it whine bottle?

John Ducey stars as Ford, the gay friend who moves in with a ladies man, Hunter (Stephen Dunham), a Sam Malone type who discovers that he has an 18-year-old daughter he never knew. The third friend, Norris (David Alan Bache) quit his job as a medical supplies salesman to paint and dash off dry lines. There also is a dog named "Mom," who speaks in subtitles.

If the outline sounds contrived, then you'll be surprised to learn that creator Alan Ball said it is very loosely based on the period in his life when he lived in a house with straight and gay men.

There was no gay guy who left his wife, no daughter who showed up 18 years later, no ex-wife (and presumably no talking dog).

The pitch meeting with ABC had to sound funnier than the pilot, which may have been green-lighted because of the success of NBC's "Will & Grace."

With so many shows featuring gay characters this season, "Grow Up" unfortunately lacks distinction -- and, more importantly, laughs.

"Then Came You," 8:30 p.m. Thursday: Based on the true life story of writer Betsy Thomas, who apparently began dating a younger room service man who worked in the hotel she was staying in after her marriage broke up.

She ended up marrying a guy who was more than a decade her junior and didn't know who Mrs. Robinson was. Apparently, he never saw "The Graduate" or heard the Simon and Garfunkel song.

That's a clever moment in the pilot, which unfortunately was made before the Simon and Garfunkel tune made it into the summer teen movie hit, "American Pie."

In other words, young Aidan (Thomas Newton) probably would know who Mrs. Robinson is now. But I digress. This being TV, the actual age difference between the actors in the series isn't remotely close to that of the real-life figures.

Susan Floyd, who plays 33-year-old Billie, is younger than that and Newton is older than the 22-year-old he plays. The rest of the cast includes Miriam Shor as Billie's best friend and Desmond Askew as Aidan's practical English buddy, Ed.

Ed, who practically steals the pilot, doesn't see what the problem is when Billie wants to pick up the check.

The pilot has some funny moments, but one can see all the age jokes and the arguments over who pays for dinner getting awfully old awfully fast.

"Wasteland," 9 p.m. Thursday: Kevin Williamson, the openly gay writer who created "Dawson's Creek" and the "Scream" movie franchise, tries to take his WB act mainstream over at ABC with a series based on the years he spent with a group of friends in New York City.

They are all young, beautiful, confused and white, though Jeffrey D. Sams is joining the series in the second episode.

The character bound to get the most attention is Dawnie (Marisa Coughlan of "Teaching Mrs. Tingle"), a 27-year-old virgin who is writing a graduate thesis on the second coming of age of people in her generation.

Dawnie tries to end her virginity in the pilot with an old boyfriend, who apparently has grown up and found a conscience.

The characters include a successful soap opera actor, who is hiding in his gay closet; a chain-smoking publicist who can't find happiness and a musician-bartender who is in love with an assistant district attorney.

As with all Williamson projects, this one has a great soundtrack and looks great. It also is the first TV project of Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax Films.

But only a TV virgin would think of it as anything but pretentious and loaded with cliches.

"Odd Man Out," 9:30 p.m. Friday: We've come a long way from the Olsen twins to this TGIF comedy from the writers of "Something About Mary" about a 15-year-old boy, Andrew (Erik von Detten) who is surrounded by women. The co-stars include Markie Post as his mother and Jessica Capshaw (Kate's daughter, Steven Spielberg's stepdaughter) as his aunt. He also has three sisters.

In the pilot, Andrew thinks he is being seduced by his older sister's friend and rides off on his bicycle with a condom in pursuit of the American Pie dream. Of course, it doesn't happen. This is TV, not the movies.

Von Detten has a goofy charm and the actress playing his older sister, Paige (Natalia Cigliuti of "Saved by the Bell: The New Class") is sexy enough to belong in "Wasteland."

But the odd thing, really, is that ABC thinks this is family viewing -- and that it is funny.

"Snoops," 9 p.m. Sunday: David E. Kelley's fifth series on network television is an old-fashioned buddy detective series with some high-tech gadgets that enable Big Brother to get in places that should remain private.

Paula Marshall and Gina Gershon are the buddies who argue over procedure and clothes but eventually become a team at the Glenn Hall Inc. (Yes, hockey fan Kelley named Gershon's character and the company after the famed goaltender.) The cast also includes Danny Nucci as the high-tech whiz and Paula Jai Parker as a fourth snoop.

The pilot, involving a murder, isn't anything special by Kelley's high standards. The gadgets and the 1970s music are as important as the words, making the plot a third wheel.

Kelley also is leaving to concentrate on "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" because, even though he is considered Superman in TV writing circles, he hasn't been able to invent the 36-hour day.

"Snoops" might be able to scare away viewers tired of working so hard watching "The X-Files" on Sunday night, but ABC shouldn't expect any Nielsen miracles unless Nucci breaks into people meters.

Tuesday: A fall preview of new shows from CBS.

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