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WITH SIX NEW FALL SHOWS, WB STILL NEEDS COMEDIES AND SHOWS FOR PARENTS

The nation's romance with the WB Network is evidenced by the abnormal amount of publicity its shows generate and the windfall of money it received from advertisers before the season started.

But the real measure of how successful it has been is the number of Big Four network shows this season that just as easily could have been made for WB.

ABC's "Wasteland," NBC's "Freaks and Geeks" and just about every new series on Fox are loaded with the attitude and soundtrack of WB shows like "Dawson's Creek," "Felicity" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Now that it has had initial success and has appeared to have slain its heated rival, UPN, for the title of No. 5 in network television, WB has to guard against falling in love with its formula so much that all of its shows look alike.

After all, the teen audience it covets is the most fickle in TV and also the busiest with schoolwork and sports during the prime-time hours.

For the network to advance, it needs to develop some shows that appeal to parents -- at least young parents -- and it needs to develop some comedies.

It isn't even trying the situation comedy route this season. All but one (an animated series) of its new series are hour shows, though they contain some humor.

After a year in which "Buffy" rocked, "Dawson's Creek" stayed the course, "Charmed" became a bewitching hit, and "Felicity" failed in its first college year to become the hit everyone expected, WB appears to have become as conservative as one of the older networks.

It has commissioned two spinoffs of popular shows, is adding two more series set in high school and has moved "Charmed" to 9 p.m. Thursday and "Felicity" to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Now let's take a brief look at the new shows:

"Safe Harbor," 9 p.m. Monday: A family drama from the producer of "7th Heaven," Brenda Hampton. The saccharine pilot, which stars Gregory Harrison as a widowed policeman with a bunch of kids in a quaint seaside town in Florida, already is in for heavy repairs. It is safe to say that the new version surely can't be as bad as the original.

"Angel," 9 p.m. Tuesday: David Boreanaz -- the son of former Rocketship 7 host Dave Thomas -- has rocketed to fame on "Buffy" and now heads to his own series as a vampire fighting the devils in Los Angeles right after "Buffy." No pilot has been shown to critics, but clips reveal that Boreanaz will rely on his trademark brooding ability.

"Roswell," 9 p.m. Wednesday: WB got its best new show from Fox, which didn't have room for this drama from the creator of ABC's "Relativity." It has similar themes to that romantic series. Jason Behr of "Dawson's Creek" stars as one of three young aliens living in the town where an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed 50 years ago.

The local sheriff (played by Hamburg's Bill Sadler) is suspicious of the strange goings-on after Max (Behr) brings Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby), the beautiful and strong young classmate that he is infatuated with, back to life after she is seemingly shot to death. Max's bold, loving and reckless act endangers the secret existence of a trio of young aliens.

The pilot is sweetly romantic and sets up enough conflict to keep the adventures and suspicions going for years. Also to be noted: Tom Hanks' 21-year-old son, Colin, is in the cast as one of Liz's best friends.

Sadler likens his character, Sheriff Valenti, to Lt. Gerard chasing the one-armed man in "The Fugitive."

If this alien show clicks, it could bring down UPN's signature show, "Star Trek: Voyager," which airs opposite it.

"Popular," 8 p.m. Thursday: Another high school dealing with the caste system that exists between the beautiful sophomores and those who can't get into the "in crowd" even if they later wonder why they want to join. It sets a record for the use of the word "so" -- like in "so cool," "so superior," "so Gwyneth (Paltrow)."

Carly Pope plays Sam, a dark-haired beauty and thoughtful would-be-journalist with an eclectic group of out-of-it friends. Sam lives with her single mother and has a crush on her guidance counselor (Chad Lowe). Sam thinks she is a non-conformist, even as she tries to enter the social circle of Brook (Leslie Bibb), a beautiful cheerleader who is living a lie. And she's being raised by her single father.

The leads are beautiful, the music is decent, but this series seems antiquated. I mean, do the popular girls in the late '90s really want to be like Brook and become cheerleaders? Isn't that like so '60s? Wouldn't they rather be like Mia Hamm and play soccer today? And why do so many actresses playing high school sophomores look as old as Mia?

By now, even teen viewers probably realize that pretty people can be insecure, too. But having that message come from WB -- which seems to have relied on Seventeen magazine cover girls to cast its series -- is, like, so weird.

"Popular" borrows a singing device from the 1998 summer film "There's Something About Mary" and a plot about an athlete with an artistic side from the 1999 summer film "American Pie," and hopes to be the popular teen TV series of 2000.

Granted, a middle-aged man can't be expected to know what kids will make popular these days. But this attractive-looking high school series is just, well, a little better than "so-so."

"Jack & Jill," 9 p.m. Sunday: Romance set in New York City with a gimmick -- Jack is a girl (Jacqueline) and Jill is a guy (his life name is Jillefsky). Oh, that's precious.

David Jillefsky (Ivan Sergei, "The Opposite of Sex") is getting cold feet and about to dissolve his relationship when he bumps into Jack (Amanda Peet) and falls in love at first sight. Complicating the situation -- Jack is about to be new best friends with Jill's girlfriend.

This show certainly reminds one of the love triangle that existed in the first season of "Felicity," which happens to be its lead-in. One key difference is that "Jack & Jill" has more humor.

Sergei is so stiff that he seems like an unlikely ladies' man, but Peet has a Cindy Crawford-like appeal. She is a latecomer to the show, having replaced the actress in the original pilot. Because the series' success may depend entirely on the chemistry between the two leads, I'll wait until I see the revised pilot. But the original seemed too precious for its own good.

"Mission Hill," 8 p.m. Fridays: An animated series from Bill Oakley and John Weinstein of "The Simpsons." No footage was available, but the producers plan to satirize the idiosyncrasies of an ethnically diverse urban youth culture, which may mean plenty of jokes at the expense of MTV, movies, alternative music and -- hopefully -- the WB Network.

Friday: A preview of ABC's new fall shows.

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