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Whoever first said "better be safe than sorry" might rethink that philosophy after seeing the sorry premiere of the new WB series "Safe Harbor" (9 tonight, Channel 49).

The original pilot of this Gregory Harrison series was so lame that WB wouldn't let the world see it. And if you remember the WB series starring Tom Arnold and Shelley Long, you know the network will show almost anything.

To its credit, the new version of "Safe" has a much more diverse cast. It includes three minority actors. It also is, well, a safe harbor for parents who think that TV has gone to hell at a faster pace than usual this season.

Unfortunately, this creation of "7th Heaven" producer Brenda Hampton doesn't have a realistic moment in the hour.

"Safe" attempts to address a very serious subject -- sexual abuse -- and combine it with silly humor while delivering parental lectures along the way. None of it works or packs much of an emotional wallop.

Harrison is Sheriff John Loring, a widower who, for some unexplained reason, is raising his three sons at a hotel in the seaside Florida town of Magic Beach. Also unexplained is why a fourth child, a black kid named Chris (Orlando Brown), lives at the hotel. However, WB notes on the series explain that Chris "considers himself the cosmic twin" of the sheriff's younger son.

The sheriff gets help from his offbeat mother (Rue McClanahan), who ought to get arrested in the pilot for supposedly "dating" a Latin man, Carlos, three decades her junior.

And boy does the sheriff need help. Led by long-haired oldest son Hayden (Christopher), the boys test Dad's authority by bringing girls into their rooms. Another girl, a runaway named Jamie (Chyler Leigh), shows up at the hotel looking for, well, safe harbor.

And there is an eccentric dog lover in the mix, who gives the sheriff clues about the runaway and advice about how to handle the case.

Not that Sheriff John thinks much of the advice. When the dog lover asks for $20, the sheriff snaps, "This isn't worth $20."

My sentiments exactly.

You can see just about everything coming in the hour, which frequently goes to the dogs. Literally.

On the way to its sentimental conclusion, Hampton asks viewers to believe that the sheriff and his mother wouldn't share important information, that the sheriff would allow a rich sex offender to keep his crime a secret, and that the sheriff wouldn't dish out severe punishment the third time his sons break his rule and bring a girl into their rooms.

Safe to say, "Harbor" has to improve. And heaven knows, it's foolish to dismiss this good-hearted series after one episode. But you'd have to pay me $20 to watch another episode.

Rating: 1 1/2 stars out of 5.

At 9 p.m. Tuesday, WB is offering a sneak preview of its new Friday animated series, "Mission Hill." It moves to 8 p.m. Fridays on Oct. 8.

"Hill" is being billed as the first animated series about and for teens and twentysomethings, which is a clue that it will be loaded with language and sexual situations that makes parents squirm.

Of course, one of the reasons that animated series thrive is that they can get away with things more quickly than shows with actors. Tuesday, we are introduced to a bickering gay couple in "Mission," who kiss passionately on an elevator. That one kiss puts them a year ahead of Will of NBC's "Will & Grace."

But not near as funny, unfortunately.

The best thing that can be said about Tuesday's pilot is that it is colorful -- in more ways than one. The content certainly isn't 8 p.m. fare. The pilot introduces 24-year-old blue-haired lead character Andy French (voiced by Wallace Langham). Andy's chances for fun and sex with flower-child girlfriend Posey Tyler (Vicki Lewis) diminish when his parents move to Wyoming and leave nerdy high school brother Kevin (Scott Menville) with him.

How nerdy is Kevin? He wears his high SAT scores on his shirt, and when he looks at his new school he says, "I smell fresh opportunities."

A would-be cartoonist who currently is selling water beds, Andy tries to expand Kevin's verbal skills and introduce him to vices in an effort to make him "cool."

The script by former "Simpsons" writers Bill Oakley and Jack Weinstein is loaded with pop culture references and rough language and situations as colorful as the animation. There also is some self-deprecating humor, with Andy saying, "It's like everyone and their brother" has an animated series on television. How true. And unfunny.

Because this is a pilot that basically spends much of its time explaining the premise, one assumes things have to get better. By Oct. 8, Oakley and Weinstein's mission should be to rely less on bad words for humor and supply some legitimate laughs.

Because if this script were made with real actors instead of animated ones, you'd almost expect Pauly Shore to be somehow involved. I smell a lost opportunity.

Rating: 2 stars

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