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'MAGGIE WINTERS' HAS A DUBIOUS PREMISE; 'TO HAVE AND TO HOLD' HAS LITTLE PROMISE

If one show could be selected as most likely to inspire a viewer to skip his high school reunion, it's CBS' "Maggie Winters" (8:30 tonight, Channel 4).

Starring Faith Ford (Corky Sherwood on "Murphy Brown"), this is a series that reminds us you can go home again 15 years later and discover that your friends haven't grown at all.

Bobby Campanella (Vincent Ventresca), "the guy most likely to have actual sex," is still single and available.

Robin (Jenny Robertson), the woman voted "most likely to breed," has three kids and a frisky husband smart enough to let her go to the reunion alone.

Tom Vanderhulst (Brian Haley), the jock voted "big man on campus," is behind a bar serving drinks and sophomoric sexual advice.

Lisa D'Angelo (Alex Kapp Horner), the woman voted "most likely to snap," is an angry single woman whose one redeeming asset is that she has a snide sense of humor.

And then there's Maggie, the most likely to succeed.

She returns home to a tiny town in Indiana to live with a mother most likely to make her feel worse than she already does after leaving her philandering husband.

Ford tries gamely to breathe life in a sitcom with the shaky premise that a high school gang will reunite years later and still "like-like" each other.

Maggie walks like an Egyptian, kisses her high school sweetie and crawls into her bed with a teddy bear.

None of it is particularly funny, but you admire Ford for trying.

The snappish friend; the sad, jealous, forgettable high school acquaintance, Rachel (Clea Lewis), and the supportive, clueless mother (Shirley Knight) get better lines than Ford.

But the truth is that even at its best, this series is nothing to write home about.

And after establishing the premise tonight, it's hard to see where Maggie's future story lines will come from.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5.

CBS wisely is premiering its new romantic drama, "To Have and to Hold" (9 p.m. Wednesday, Channel 4), on the night NBC is carrying a baseball game.

Because it's also facing ABC's "Drew Carey Show" and Fox's "Party of Five," "Hold" needs every break it can get.

In "Hold," Moira Kelly is a public defender named Annie who keeps postponing her wedding to an Irish cop named Sean (Jason Beghe) to the amusement of his large family.

When Sean isn't rubbing her the wrong way, he's rubbing his feet.

They argue, they make up. And that's just in court.

The dialogue is clever, though sometimes too clever for its own good. And the idea that a woman could cross-examine her fiance in a case and uses it to quiz him on his sex life is preposterous even by Kenneth Starr standards.

But if you brush reality aside, it's an enjoyable hour that foolishly ends with a marriage that should kill any chances that this will be the next "Moonlighting." Expect to have this series for a few weeks before CBS puts it on hold.

Rating: 3 stars.

Also premiering tonight is ABC's "The Secret Lives of Men" (9:30, Channel 7), a comedy from Susan Harris about divorce.

It stars Peter Gallagher as a thirtysomething guy hurting after discovering that his wife has cheated on him.

Not exactly ripe for humor.

The three very different men in the title -- there is an honest businessman, a fruitcake who manufactures artificial fruits and vegetables, and a Type A personalty -- play a lot of golf together, drink together and commiserate together.

What they don't share is a lot of laughs. And neither will you.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars.

The season opener of "Saturday Night Live" naturally was filled with Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky jokes. It started with a clever sketch about the media and forgiveness that speculated on how the principals in the scandal would handle a reunion hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Unfortunately, it was about as funny as "Maggie Winters."

The only scandal joke that made me laugh was one in which a romance expert, "The Ladies' Man," played by Tim Meadows, praised the president for performing his duties while talking to a congressman on the telephone as a sex act was being performed on him. Of course, that's not exactly how Meadows phrased it.

By the way, it looks like the premiere didn't suffer at all from competition with Howard Stern. Its audience was up 4 percent in major markets from a year earlier and did especially well in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The series premiere of "Jesse," which is set in Buffalo, gave NBC its highest ratings at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in more than two years. "Jesse" averaged 27.4 million viewers and had the best audience in two years for adults ages 18 to 49 in that time period. It lost 3.7 million viewers from its "Friends" lead-in, or about 10 percent. In the end, "Jesse" will be judged by how many viewers it lost from "Friends" and how much of its audience it retains with its subsequent episodes.

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